School District 91 board members have plans to strengthen the relationship between B.C. and China and are well on their way to signing an agreement which would benefit both the local area and the Chinese.
Ray LeMoigne, superintendent of schools for School District 91 recently travelled to China at the request of the board as part of a 2010 Canadian superintendents mission to China.
Six B.C. school districts, including School District 91 participated in the trip and joined 100 more superintendents from across Canada.
“The purpose of the trip was to build a bridge between school districts throughout Canada, districts that have similar jurisdictions in China, with a focus on developing initiatives and programs that would be of mutual benefit to our learners and our respective organizations,” LeMoigne said.
The Canadian contingent of superintendents met with hundreds of Chinese educators in various forums including large group presentations at the Confucius Institute.
“Smaller groups within educational districts were also matched with superintendents. This included meeting with Chinese school principals. We also visited school sites and classrooms and I was able to witness learning in both Chinese and English instructed classes,” LeMoigne added.
Through these meetings LeMoigne said he was able to create five memorandums of understanding between School District 91 and its Chinese counterparts.
LeMoigne said with the memorandums of understanding signed the school district will be able to investigate the possibility to develop initiatives including hosting Chinese students for camps, enrolling Chinese students for full or part time study up to a term of one year in B.C. schools, develop exchange programs for individual, small group and whole class study for students and teachers as well as develop bilateral teacher internship and language and culture training programs.
As well as these initiatives School District 91 is also looking at the possibility of class to class arrangements including electronic pen pals and common unit [topic] studies.
“Enrollment in online distance courses such as an introduction to B.C. course to help prospective international students to be well prepared for study in B.C.,” LeMoigne added.
According to LeMoigne there is also further potential for local area wood to be used in new developments across China.
R & F Developments are developing a new city north of Beijing that is expected to have a population of over 175,000 people living in the area within two years.
“The company shared its plans with us and offered the invitation to set up a B.C. offshore certified school within their new property development.”
LeMoigne said, “After hearing of the opportunity I scheduled a meeting between myself and the president of the company to develop further understanding as well as a memorandum of understanding. The B.C. trade commissioner agreed to participate with me and served as my translator. The opportunities that have flowed from this meeting are the focus of my remaining time and include not only educational opportunities but potentially significant economic benefits for our district and region.”
During the discussions LeMoigne asked if it was a possibility for the school to be constructed of local area wood and was told it was a definite possibility.
He was also told it was a possibility for condos and multi family dwellings in the development to also be developed using timber.
“The economic spin offs from this are huge. The private dwellings in this development are each worth about $3.5 million Canadian dollars, it is a high end development. This company is also developing 35 other similar projects in 12 major cities in China. There is potential there, it is important to our communities and it is important to our educational system, we are not cutting back, but we are adding on.”
“It is a positive step forward, I would like to see it make a difference and help the smaller local mills, it would help to keep the local market sustainable.” School District 91 are still in the process of signing agreements.