The Newton-Beijing Jingshan School Exchange Program 1979-present
The United States and China will be world leaders in the 21st century. It is essential that people from our two very different cultures learn to speak to one another in friendship and understanding. This vision of the future led the Newton Public Schools and the Beijing Jingshan School to form an educational exchange program for teachers and students. Ours is the oldest exchange program of its kind between the two countries.
The exchange program was initiated, and has continued, as a person-to-person exchange. The students and teachers on both sides live in private homes and study and work side by side. The long-term influence on the lives of those involved has been profound. Former exchange students on both sides have chosen courses of study and careers that capitalize on their international experiences. Our American and Chinese exchange teachers continue to be deeply involved in continuing and supporting this effort. All have formed warm personal friendships and have seen their worlds expanded. Further, the exchange of teachers and students provides exciting benefits to the schools on both sides. It enhances Newton’s Chinese language and social studies programs in classrooms at every level grade throughout the school system and also enhances the Jingshan School’s excellent English language program from grades three through high school.
Our exchange program dates back to 1979 when teachers Claire Kanter and Fang Bi Hui chanced to meet in Beijing and began to explore the idea of forming an educational exchange. In Newton, Aaron Fink, then superintendent, gave his support to this idea. There were exploratory visits on both sides. John Strand, the next superintendent, became further invested in the possibility of a regular exchange of students and teachers. Cui Meng Ming, principal of the Jingshan School, developed the support needed in Beijing. In 1985, the actual exchange of students and teachers began. Between 1985 and 1989, groups of two or three teachers and four or five high school students spent a semester living, studying, and working in one another’s school community in alternate years. Intensive language and cultural study preceded each visit.
Following a five-year hiatus, Newton again hosted students and teachers from the Jingshan School in 1994, with the support of Superintendent Irwin Blumer. The renewal was due in large part to the efforts of David Phelan, a former co-chair of the program, with funds from the Stone Computer Company in Beijing. The exchange program began to function on an annual basis: Newton hosting in the fall, Jingshan School hosting in the spring. In the interest of equalizing the exchange program, the length of stay became four months on both sides and each side funded its own travel expenses. Since 1997, funds for substitute teachers' salaries and the summer Chinese Language Institute are provided by the Newton Public Schools. We have established an endowed fund with the Newton Schools Foundation to cover operating expenses. A grant from Jane’s Trust provides partial and full need-based scholarships for students.
To strengthen friendship and plan for the future of the exchange program, Newton administrators and co-chairs of the Newton-Jingshan School Exchange Program Committee visited the Beijing Jingshan School in April 1996. A grant from the Freeman Foundation provided funding for ten Newton teachers developing curriculum and teaching about China to visit China in April 1997. Since 1999, more than sixty Newton teachers and administrators have visited the Jingshan School while on study tours with the China Studies Partnership Program or Primary Source. In addition, six Underwood Elementary School teachers made a visit in June 2001. Newton superintendent, Jeffrey Young, visited China in the summer 1997 with Irwin Blumer and a delegation of superintendents and again in August 2004. Fan Lu Yan visited Newton in 1994, as assistant principal, again in October 2002 as principal, and again in May 2005, with a delegation of teachers and administrators, to further cement the Newton-Jingshan School ties and to celebrate the long partnership. In September 2004 two assistant superintendents and four middle school principals visited the Jingshan School for an international education conference. Dr. Judith Malone-Neville presented a paper at the conference. In April 2007, three assistant superintendents, three middle school principals and two world language department heads visited the Jingshan school.
The future of this exchange program now is secure and highly valued on both sides. In December 2005, Newton North and Newton South High Schools were named winners of the Goldman Sachs Foundation Prize for Excellence in International Education, with the Newton-Beijing Jingshan Exchange as the centerpiece. The prize came with an award of $25,000, which was used to establish the Global Education Fund for Newton North and Newton South High Schools. This purpose of the fund is to support teachers in their efforts to infuse global studies into the curriculum and to further connect our high schools with the world.
A Freeman Foundation grant, received in 1998, renewed in 2001 and 2005, has supported the formation of the China Exchange Initiative to create new exchange programs between other Chinese and American schools based on the Newton-Beijing Jingshan School model.