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Gary attorney part of delegation heading to China

When he arrives in Beijing, China, in a couple of days, Gary resident Tony Walker will become Wu Wei Li, a Chinese name that mixes defender and establishment.

Walker, who is Northwest Indiana’s representative on the Indiana State Board of Education, was chosen to head a sub-group of a delegation of American educators and administrators in a 10-day exchange trip, beginning Thursday, sponsored by Hanban, an agency of China’s Ministry of Education.

“I think it’s very important in terms of the long-term preparation of Indiana students that we increase our language facility,” Walker, a local lawyer, said. “The more opportunities we can offer for Chinese language development, the more we can make our students more competitive in global work force.”

Hanban is the headquarters of the Confucius Institute, a quasi-governmental agency that establishes Chinese language education and cultural exchanges and programs worldwide. For grades kindergarten through 12, the institute established Confucius Classroom Partnerships, while Confucius Institutes are for universities, explained Jiangang Liu, associate director of Valparaiso University’s Confucius Institute.

Each year, Hanban selects dozens of Americans for the trip and divides them into geographically based sub-groups, such as Walker’s Midwest delegation. The groups tour school districts throughout the country.

The Americans, through a series of presentations, share and receive information on educational challenges, “best practice” models and goals with their Chinese counterparts, Walker said.

For example, the first stop for Walker’s group will be Dalian, a port city of 6,000,000 in northeast China that has become a model “green” city and shipping center that hosts a World Economic Forum every year. There are more than 1 million students in the metropolis alone.

Walker said Chinese educators can learn from Americans in teaching critical-thinking skills, analysis, creativity and innovation, while the Chinese have much to offer in language, cultural development and in-school models.

Part of Walker’s plan is to get support for landing a Confucius Classroom Partnership and possibly a “sister city” for a local school district, though he declined to name the school system.

“That school district already offers (Chinese) language instruction, but with a partnership, they can have faculty and student exchanges and more classroom instruction financed, in large part, by the Ministry of Education.”

Culver Academy and New Prairie Middle School, in New Carlisle, are two Indiana schools that already have Confucius Classroom Partnerships, Liu said, but the institute is working to bring more to Northwest Indiana.

“We are encouraged to get the word out to principals and administrators in the area,” said Liu, who joined VU more than three years ago. “Hanban pays for expenses that occur in China, like food and travel arrangements, but it’s very beneficial for everyone.”



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