Reporters' Notebook - Visiting iEARN China

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Written by Ligaya Beebe

In May, I had the privilege of visiting our partner, Sihong Huang, the Country Coordinator of iEARN-China. We spent several days together, talking about our hopes and dreams for iEARN, visiting with NSLI-Y host families, and meeting potential iEARN partners.

We sat down on a mountainside for a chat about iEARN-China. Here is an excerpt from our chat:

Ligaya: How did you learn about iEARN?

Sihong: I learned about iEARN in 1999 when I was pregnant with my first baby. In 2007 I was introduced to the former coordinator in iEARN-China, Su Bu De. Finally, in 2009 I became the coordinator for iEARN-China.

Ligaya: What was it about iEARN that was interesting to you?

Sihong: I was a teacher a middle school teacher in Beijing for fifteen years, during that time I thought about education a lot. I had a lot of questions about what teachers and students need. iEARN is a group that is open-minded and globally and culturally meaningful. It gives a chance to everybody in the field of education to learn from each other and to learn about themselves. It also gives you awareness to reflect on your own culture and what can you do to help education, not just locally in your own school with your own students, but also with other teachers and schools and friends.

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Ligaya: What is your favorite iEARN project?

Sihong: They are all great. My favorite projects involve people having fun, that are also meaningful, that also help people share. You have the opportunity to share your background, what you learned, and what you experienced from this process. And also it [the project] can develop something inside of participants.

For example, “Talking Kites” and “Daffodils and Tulips.”

“Daffodils and Tulips” involves the students planting their own daffodils and tulips and then collaborating with students around the world to record and compare results. It is interesting for kids and it is easier for teachers to attract students to be involved in this project.

Ligaya: What is the benefit of doing a project like this with iEARN?

Sihong: The benefit is not in the result, it is in the process, the process of communicating deeply. I try to encourage the teachers who participate to pay more attention to how they communicate with others, to focus on the process rather than the knowledge or the results.

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I came away from my time with Sihong with a much more vivid understanding of iEARN-China’s important work and the challenges Sihong has overcome to champion iEARN’s vision. In China, concepts like “global education” and “global competence” are still relatively new and were practically unheard of in the late 1990’s, when Sihong first learned about the network. That an educator in Beijing was moved to not only join iEARN but to also take on a leadership role as the country coordinator is a true testament to iEARN’s sustained impact.

Thank you Sihong for all that you do for iEARN-China and for iEARN! We are so glad to have such a fierce advocate for global education in our iEARN family!

Ligaya Beebe is a Program Coordinator on iEARN-USA's Grants Team. She is humbled everyday by iEARN's mission and is proud to support their transformative exchange programs for youth.