Wayland High School Principal Pat Tutwiler admitted to School Committee members Monday night that he had some misconceptions about China prior to his trip in late March.
As it turns out, English is not widely spoken and Beijing is very Westernized with McDonald's and , Tutwiler said.
Tutwiler said one perception that didn't change as a result of his trip -- in fact, the trip solidified what he already believed to be true -- was his view of the importance of forming the exchange program partnership with China.
“Yes, this partnership is very important," Tutwiler told School Committee members during his presentation at their Monday night meeting. "Both the students who go and our student body here will benefit greatly."
The program will start next fall when a maximum of eight Wayland High School students, ranging from grades 10-12, will travel to China for a six-week student exchange program. While they are away, eight to 10 students from China will stay will Wayland families and attend Wayland High School.
“We have an expectation and a value around students having an understanding of the world outside Wayland,” Tutwiler said. He added at the desire to organize this type of program has been around for many years. “This is not a vacation. This is a serious educational experience.”
The Wayland students will attend the Yuan Branch of the Jingshan School and will take two accessible classes in addition to a Chinese culture course taught be a WHS chaperone. The accessible classes could include courses such as caligraphy or art since WHS students do not speak Chinese.
Wayland Schools Superintendent Paul Stein pointed out that the hope is that as Wayland's Chinese language education spreads to younger grades, there will come a time when high school students will have enough knowledge of the language to take traditional academic classes during their exchange session.
“We’re building a program here," Stein said during the meeting. "Eventually, all this will come together.”
Tutwiler said his trip to China to meet with the principal of the exchanging school was critically important to the program's success. He said letters, emails and phone calls would not have been taken seriously by the Chinese school.
“It wouldn’t have happened unless one of us had gone there,” Tutwiler said.
Tutwiler emphasized that the program isn't for every student. Wayland High School students will be expected to keep up with their course work for the six weeks they are away and will take mid-terms when they return around Winter Break.
In addition, students will create a collaborative project to present to their classmates when they return and will possibly be involved in a community service project while abroad.
Applications for the program are due May 15 and are available on the Wayland High School website. The family of any student taking part will also be expected to host a Chinese student in a true exchange format. The estimated cost of the program is $2,500.