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Chinese visitor wants schools to harness the power of international partnership

Chinese visitors at Wollaton Park

A Chinese business wants to sign up Nottinghamshire schools to a new educational exchange programme designed to help teachers and students in both countries improve their language skills and learn from each other.

Bin Lou, who is from the city of Shenyang in North Eastern China, has spent a week showcasing the city to a group of Chinese parents looking to give their children a flavour of British life and education.

Now he wants Nottinghamshire schools to forge official links with schools in China to set up regular exchanges which will support the modern languages curriculum in both countries as well as widening horizons and giving students experiences that enrich their lives.

Nottingham already has firm links with China; the Chinese community makes up two per cent of the city’s population and the University of Nottingham has an independent campus on China’s eastern coast close to Shanghai.

But Lou wants the cultural and educational exchanges to begin much earlier, with children in schools being offered the opportunity to experience life on the other side of the world.

He already has 500 Chinese schools and kindergartens signed up to his company, Liaoning Tongzhou, which currently organises exchange trips for teachers, parents and children to countries including America, Australia, New Zealand.

He said: “There is a great deal of difference between the two education systems – for example we start teaching our children to speak English from the age of about two years old and our children are very number smart.

“Children in China spend a lot of time reading books, whereas British children have lots of extra-curricular activities. We can all learn a lot from each other and I think an exchange of ideas has never been more important as the world becomes a smaller place and we live in a global economy.

“I chose Nottingham as it already has a large Chinese community and people in the city already understand the importance of educational collaborations thanks to the links established by the university.

“I have also found that people in Nottingham show tourists more care than they receive in cities like London and it is the best of both worlds – Chinese visitors can enjoy nature and culture too.”

Exchange visits used to be a common occurrence at UK schools but have become less popular today with only 39% of British state schools organising them, according to figures from the British Council.

But schools and kindergartens in China are keen to work with English-speaking teachers and Lou hopes China’s economic power, culture and ancient traditions will attract Nottingham students who will gain global awareness, valuable life skills and unforgettable experiences.

He plans to organise two exchange visits a year and recently brought his first Chinese visitors to the city. The party of seven adults and six children enjoyed visits to Nottingham Castle, the caves, Wollaton Park and the university.

The children spent their days at Creative Hands Daycare, in Stapleford, which caters for children aged between 0-11 years old.

Lou added: “The adults absolutely loved Nottingham. They liked the speed of life, its convenience, the transport links meant they could move around easily, the cost of living was reasonable and the weather and temperature are much nicer here.

“The children’s English improved dramatically during the week and what was particularly nice was that the Nottingham children in the nursery started using some mandarin, which was very unexpected.

“It was a wonderful example of what we can achieve and I am looking forward to bringing more students to the city.”

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