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PBDA China Partnership 2019: An Education About Education

Posted on: March 15, 2019

Friday, March 15, Beijing

If the best way to understand a thing is to encounter it in as many forms as possible, then this trip has been an education about…um…education. Our students started with a narrow, if effective, sense of what education was, based on their own experiences at PBDA.


Beijing East District Qing Nian Hu Primary School

Then, just four days ago, they got a second “data point” on a visit to a Christian school in Hong Kong. Today, we broadened our understanding further with a trip to the Beijing East District Qing Nian Hu Primary School. Whatever preconceptions our students (and teachers) might have had about the nature of Chinese education were challenged here. Think Chinese education is about creating well-disciplined, but unquestioning, automatons? A class of writing students who flee their seats to watch an American try to write their daily lesson remind you that the truth is more complicated. Assume the culture is exclusively one of modest self-effacement? You might think twice after watching one of the home team who just nailed a sweet rebound and put-back against our Bulldogs strut back down the court. (Don’t ask what the score was; no one knows for sure.) Believe that Chinese education is an under-funded spartan undertaking? Check out the integrated technology in the art class and robotics program.

A crisp outdoor morning assembly also provided opportunity for our students to learn how school-wide physical exercise lends a spirit of unity and purpose to the day, while James Caprio, Chloe Levine, and Reilly Hollern helped extend that unity across schools.

PBDA in Beijing

The Art of the Haggle

But then, sometimes the teachers get an education about their students just by placing them in the right environment. After exchanging gifts and goodbyes with our gracious hosts at the Qing Nian Hu School, our Bulldogs headed over to the world-famous Pearl Market, a mall of knock-off electronics, clothing, accessories, and toys that would make the most seasoned street-market haggler decide maybe it’s just better to pay retail. Chaperones accompanied small groups of students through the complex in the name of supervision, but in terms of fiscal health, the opposite was closer to the truth. Groups crossed paths throughout the afternoon, and students exchanged effective trading secrets: “Go lower than half and start to walk away if they won’t come down to it.” “Have someone else go with you who pretends to have seen it for way cheaper”; or, the most cut-throat of all, “Make them think what they have is worthless, and you can practically name your price!” But the bargains weren’t really the point, at least not from a mentor’s perspective; the truly encouraging pattern behind the trip was watching students develop and exercise a voice that they either had no idea they possessed or hadn’t considered all that powerful in the world of adults.

And perhaps the education for the kids will be in learning that teachers have agile minds themselves, when it comes to helping their kids to advocate for themselves in the classroom the way they did over a purse.

PBDA in Beijing


PBDA in Beijing

PBDA in Beijing