Nottingham nursery children as young as two are getting an early years’ chance to get to meet and play alongside youngsters from China thanks to a unique cultural exchange programme aimed at sharing good education practice between the city and the Far East.
Children attending the Creative Hands Daycare in Wadsworth Road, Stapleford, have been playing alongside peers who are in the UK on week-long visits with their families from Harbin, in north-west China, and have even picked up some Mandarin along the way.
The exchange visit, which took place earlier this month, was held as part of a series of events aimed at helping teachers and students in both countries improve their language skills and learn from each other.
They are being organised by a Chinese HR firm, Liaoning Tongzhou, whose MD Bin Lou wants to create a network of nurseries and schools in both countries who will pay each other regular visits.
The idea is to help them to support the modern languages curriculum in both countries as well as widening horizons and giving students experiences that enrich their lives – no matter how young they are.
Mr Lou spent the week showcasing Nottingham to the children’s parents in order to give them a flavour of British life and education saying that the city, which has strong links with China, is a perfect place for him to develop his programme.
He already has 500 Chinese schools and kindergartens signed up to his company, which also 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.
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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