Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to China with a delegation of leaders from other Colorado Community College System (CCCS) colleges to introduce the community college model to Chinese educators from vocational language schools, universities and municipal government officials.
In addition to meeting Chinese educators, faculty and staff from Community College of Denver, Front Range Community College, Pike’s Peak Community College, Pueblo Community College and Red Rocks Community College also had the opportunity to put community college in Colorado on the radar of Chinese students and parents in the cities of Xian, Xiamen, Suzhou, Shanghai, Jinan and Beijing.
While the Chinese education system is different from the United States, one thing is known that the Chinese tend to favor the U.S. education system. This “paradox” was introduced by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Time in 2011 (The New York Times “China’s Winning Schools?” Jan. 15, 2011), who wrote that “Many Chinese complain scathingly that their system kills independent thought and creativity, and they envy the American system for nurturing self-reliance — and for trying to make learning exciting and not just a chore.”
What better place for Chinese students to experience these nurturing qualities than within the nurturing and supportive community college environment? Our smaller class sizes, free tutoring, affordability and guaranteed transfer options are very attractive to Chinese parents.
One obstacle for Chinese students attending college within the United States can be the language and/or culture barrier. Each of the participating schools has an international student representative to help Chinese students integrate more easily into life in an American college.
Community colleges typically have lower TOEFL score requirements than four-year schools thus making enrollment into a college in the United States easier. Once enrolled, ESL courses can help Chinese students improve their English.
CCD’s Confucius Institute can also help to make these students feel more at home with cultural events and activities.
This trip is the beginning of what we hope will be a long and rewarding relationship with potential educational partners in China. While we did have some challenges along the way (like missing our first connection to Tokyo!), overall the experience was very positive.
We made many fruitful contacts, observed first-hand just how competitive the educational environment in China is, and listened to parent’s concerns about ensuring the safety of their children if they were to attend college in Colorado.
Colorado community colleges can most certainly be a doorway to bring students from China to the United States to further their education. CCCS schools can lay out the pathway for these students, but it will take time and energy to continue to nurture the new seeds of relationships that were sown during the trip.
While it was an extremely busy week filled with numerous meetings, tours of educational facilities and lots of activity, the delegation enjoyed sight-seeing, including a trip to the Yu Gardens, the tallest building at Puxi and the Forbidden City in the capital, Beijing.