In what can be described as a milestone for Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS), the central Alberta school division earlier this month signed its first ever exchange agreement with a school district in China.
WCPS superintendent Jayson Lovell — along with assistant superintendent Mark McWhinnie and learning services director Sean Lougheed — travelled to Guangzhou in the province of Guangdong, China last month to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that establishes a cooperative exchange between WCPS and the Liwan Bureau of Education.
Being called ‘One Belt, One Road Education Initiative’, the agreement was signed March 19. It builds a pathway for educational and cultural exchanges that began back when WCPS was approached last December.
“It was amazing experience for us, very exciting in terms of a brand new initiative and opportunity for our students and staff and I think for our communities as well,” Lovell said.
“We live in a very global world, where our student understanding is not simply confined to their communities, province or county. So, as a district, we feel an obligation to help expand those opportunities.”
Exchanges will last a couple of weeks, with the first group of Chinese students — between 20 or 30 — set to arrive in July. A second group from China will visit in late September with the first group from WCPS heading over next March.
Three sister schools in Liwan have been paired with Lacombe Composite and Blackfalds Iron Ridge Junior initially, with further WCPS schools to be added as the opportunities arise.
WCPS was the only non-B.C. school division in the contingent that went to China to sign agreements, while also touring 11 schools in the region.
The motivation and interest shown by the Guangzhou schools and school districts to be engaged in these exchanges is one of the exciting things for WCPS, according to Lovell.
“They really want their students to seek different experiences and opportunities outside of China and Canada is a very credible, desirable location,” he stated.
“They see Canada as a country of opportunity, one that is open and that embraces diversity. They also know a lot about Canada and that is one thing that really surprised us.”
Another interesting note Lovell stated was a few of the differences between how the schools operate — with normal class sizes between 40 and 50 students, who all live at the schools, while there is more teacher-directed instruction rather than collaboration that is done in Canada.
“They are also very focused on the future and what this opportunity may do for the students and, ultimately, for their country.”