By Andrew Cluley
AAPS Communications Specialist
Ann Arbor Public Schools’ already robust options for global learning are expanding. The Board of Education has approved a new partnership that will welcome Chinese students to Huron, Pioneer, and Skyline High School for their junior and senior years.
The partnership with BCC International Educational Group joins existing partnerships for short, medium, and long-term exchanges. These programs include exchanges or one or two weeks, such as the sister city program with Hikone, Japan. This year more than 50 students are attending AAPS from 23 different countries as part of year-long programs.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says these experiences prepare Ann Arbor Public Schools students for the global environment they will enter as adults, and helps break down cultural barriers.
“Family to family, classroom to classroom, school to school, and district to district, we will strategically place Ann Arbor in even a better position to actualize our core value of that global awareness and developing cultural competences in our students,” she says.
Trustee Simone Lightfoot says the partnership will boost Ann Arbor Public Schools world language programs. ”This program can help offset and improve our own language programs that we have within the district, professional development with our own staff and team, and countless other things,” she says.
School Board member Andy Thomas is excited the new partnership will continue Ann Arbor Public Schools’ efforts to offer a diverse education experience. The district recently expanded Mandarin Chinese and added Arabic to the world language options available, which have traditionally been European languages. Thomas says the value of this partnership is great since China has about 18 percent of the world’s population. “China is one of the major countries in the world, it has the world’s fastest growing economy among developed nations, for us to prepare our students for the world they need to understand China,” Thomas says.
The program will benefit AAPS students by giving them a lot of opportunities to engage in more intense interaction with Chinese culture and language. Students studying Chinese will also get the valuable chance to practice with native Chinese speakers. Both students and teachers will also have opportunities to make visits to China for cultural camps.
BCC and AAPS officials will screen candidates to make sure they will fit academically and are well suited for the partnership. The program is expected to start small and grow methodically. AAPS could eventually accept up to 33 Chinese students a year for each of the three comprehensive high schools. The total number however will be controlled by community interest, since no student will be admitted without an approved host family in place.
School Board President Deb Mexicotte might just one day fill this role. “I would be interested in being a host family for such a student and I’m sure that many of our families would. Having done this before for an exchange student I know how enriching it can be to give that opportunity to a student that’s really motivated to be here and become part of our community.”