Designing a State-of-the-Art High School in Suzhou, China: Connecting to the Future

Designing a State-of-the-Art High School in Suzhou, China: Connecting to the Future

Hiller A. Spires (North Carolina State University, USA), Marie Himes (North Carolina State University, USA) and Lisa Wang (Suzhou North America High School, China)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2924-8.ch011
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Abstract

Globalization, migration, transnational movements, and new economies have led educational leaders worldwide to view schools as key venues to develop global competence in working and learning with people from different cultures. With this global trend as a context, a state-of-the-art high school was created in Suzhou, China through a public-private partnership. Additionally, the school leaders invited North Carolina State University to be the creative partner for the school. This chapter traces the development of the new educational facility, the innovative curriculum embracing the best of Chinese and American education, and the successes and ongoing challenges that the members of the collaborative partnership experience.
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Background: Rationale For A State-Of-The-Art School In China

The Connecting to the Future: Suzhou North America High School project between Mr. Wang Bintai, the Wuzhong Group, and North Carolina State University was formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2014. The partnership formed in response to the growing demand for innovative, globally-minded secondary educational opportunities within China for Chinese nationals. The rationale for locating a state-of-the-art school in Suzhou, China is set forth in the following section, including driving factors and cultural context.

Since the opening of China in the late 1970s, the country has experienced a period of rapid economic growth that has impacted its society writ large. With annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaging 10% across the last four decades, 21st century China is a global economic powerhouse (Morrison, 2015). With this unprecedented economic growth has come increased demand for high-skilled workers. In response to this demand, the government initiated an expansion of the higher education system in the late 1990s (Heckman & Yi, 2012). However, entrance to elite Chinese universities remains highly competitive, based on students’ performance on the national college entrance exam (gaokao), their family’s legal residency (hukou), and students’ financial resources (Michael, 2016). Thus, Chinese families with the necessary financial resources are eager to send their young people to higher education institutions outside China. Although Chinese students attend universities in many different countries, the United States has become the most popular destination for Chinese students studying abroad (Project Atlas, 2016). The diversity of higher education opportunities in the States, coupled with the highly selective nature of top universities in China and some parents’ desire for their children to avoid the stress of preparing for the gaokao, fuel families’ decisions to send their students to the United States for undergraduate degrees (ICEF Monitor, 2015).

Differences between the Chinese and American K-12 education systems often create challenges for Chinese students when attending a university in the United States. Language differences are a key concern, but beyond acquiring English as a second language, Chinese students are often not prepared for Western classroom structures that promote collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, expressing intellectual dissent, and innovative, group-designed research and projects (Gan, 2009). One way to ease students’ transition to Western modes of education prior to their matriculation in U.S. universities is to provide schooling models in their native country that acclimatize students to different thinking and learning approaches.

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