Wolf Creek Public Schools is the first jurisdiction in Alberta developing a student exchange program with the district of Li Wan in Guangzhou, China.
Li Wan is one of 10 districts in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province. Alberta Education has had a memorandum of understanding with Guangdong since 2004.
Alberta government and Guangdong also signed a sister-province relationship agreement in 2017 to strengthen ties and facilitate trade and cultural links.
Guangdong, in southwestern China, is its most populated province with 110 million people.
Jayson Lovell, Wolf Creek superintendent, said Wolf Creek students want more opportunities to experience life outside the regular school experience and it’s important for them to learn about the international community.
“For our students, growing up in the 21st century, global citizenship and understanding the world beyond Central Alberta is really important, and it’s becoming more important for our students as they leave our school system. That’s really what’s motivating us,” Lovell said on Thursday.
“As a school division we’re really proud to be the first school division in Alberta to formally move towards and hopefully sign a memorandum of understanding with this particular region in China.”
He said Li Wan is one of the smaller districts in Guangzhou but it has close to 100,000 primary and secondary students with as many as 23,000 kindergarten students.
“The scale is quite amazing. The one high school we’re going to visit has over 3,000 students,” Lovell said about an upcoming trip for Wolf Creek administrators in March.
He said the focus right now is on a cultural rather than education exchange visits for students, but that may change in the future.
“At this point that’s not where we’re headed. We currently don’t have a formal international education program.”
The plan so far is for two groups of 20 to 30 Chinese students to come this summer for a two-week exchange based out of École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School. Wolf Creek would provide classroom space, a school bus and driver, and assist with home-stay arrangements in the Lacombe.
In March 2019, 20 to 30 high school students from Wolf Creek would go to China.
Lovell said the cost for Wolf Creek students would be low as revenue from incoming Chinese students would offset costs.
He added academics would not be the key criteria to choose Wolf Creek students for the program.
“We’re looking at to what degree the student has volunteered and contributed to their school. We’re looking at ways that they have demonstrated work habits and work skills that are really positive. Citizenship is going to be really important.”