To the Editor:
It was with great pleasure that I read the Commentary by Vivien Stewart on China’s attempts to move toward “more Western approaches that incorporate inquiry methods, classroom discussion, applications of knowledge, and use of technology” (“China’s Modernization Plan,” March 22, 2006).
In April of 1997, I was part of a team from the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, or GLOBE, program that conducted what was thought to be the first hands-on, technology- and Internet-based experimental workshop on environmental science and education in that country. Our purpose was to introduce student-based, scientifically relevant environmental education to at least one teacher from each province of China.
At the end of our week’s work, the participants told us that they had never known such education techniques existed, and all of them were anxious to return to their homes and implement what they had seen. Even though money for purchasing the equipment we showed them was very scarce, they meticulously photographed each item and measured all its dimensions. Local craftsmen were then able to duplicate much of what they needed.
At that time, we felt that we had begun to change the fundamental paradigm of education in China. The Chinese country coordinator for GLOBE, Jia Feng, of the then-named Chinese National Environmental Protection Agency, told us that, as the “grandfather” of GLOBE in China, he was responsible for the education of billions of grandchildren.
From what we saw of the industry and determination of the Chinese people, I am not surprised that they are well on their way to completely overhauling their education system.