DEXTER, Maine — This school year, Dexter started its international student program and brought six students from China to Dexter Regional High School.
SAD 46 is looking to take it one step further next year.
Superintendent Kevin Jordan said SAD 46, with its partner Global Study Connections based in Dover-Foxcroft, plans to lend its curriculum to schools in China as early as this fall.
Jay Brennan, CEO of Global Study Connections, spoke to the SAD 46 board of directors on Wednesday to discuss progress thus far.
“China sends hundreds of thousands of students abroad to study here in America,” he said. “There’s an interest of the schools, government and parents to keep their children in China and also to provide a stronger English education of students in China.”
Brennan said there are two prongs for Dexter’s involvement in China. The first is starting a new school that will use Dexter’s curriculum in kindergarten and first grade.
“We’re looking at 15-20 kindergarteners at first,” Jordan said on Thursday. “The teacher in the Chinese school will be teaching our kindergarten curriculum and following the same sequence, scoping, goals and pursuit of common goal standards in our kindergarten.
“The second prong we’re working on, and it still needs more development, is there are two high schools in China. They are looking for their students to have some sort of dual diploma or dual certificate in their school career in China,” he said. “We’re reviewing their curriculum and transcripts to see how they earn their credits and work toward graduation. We’ll look at the current classes they have and supplement their classes with ours at Dexter Regional High School.”
There are about 600 students who may have an interest in doing dual courses so far, Jordan said.
Brennan said there is no risk to the school district.
“There really isn’t any risk outside of saying, ‘we tried something and it didn’t work out,’” Brennan said. “There really isn’t any financial risk.”
However, there would be a financial benefit as there would be a registration fee for each student to access Dexter’s curriculum and high school students seeking dual diplomas.
“I’m always seeking opportunities for additional revenue as long as it’s not a negative impact on the education we’re currently giving our kids,” Jordan said. “It potentially opens some doors and more opportunities for our staff and kids down the road.”
The concept of a Maine school partnering with a school in China is not new, Brennan said. Lee Academy operates a school in China and schools in Boothbay already have a sister school in China set up similar to that of the one Dexter is pursuing.
Schools taught by English-speaking instructors are highly sought after, Brennan said.
“Part of the thing that drives this is that Chinese parents aren’t happy with some of the schooling [in China],” he said. “One of the things that really surprised me is the homeschooling movement in China is huge. It’s just gigantic. So there’s a real desire to have an English-based education.
“One of the languages that’s very important to live and work in the global community is English,” Brennan said. “So their desire is to give their students the strongest English background that’s possible.”
Some schools in China that are labeled English-based aren’t so, he said.
“My partner has his 4-year-old son in a Chinese kindergarten that’s supposed to be an English-speaking kindergarten,” Brennan said. “But when he’s attended it, the teacher is speaking 90 percent Chinese. He’s just very frustrated. I think that kind of frustration is not unique.”
“The Chinese culture really craves the American education system and its differences and the Chinese being able to speak English is a very high priority,” Jordan said.
Jordan said there might be opportunities for a teacher exchange and Skype would be used to make sure the curriculum is implemented properly.
However, he stressed that education in Dexter’s schools wouldn’t be hindered.
“I think it’s an incredible opportunity for us to expand our education globally,” Jordan said. “It speaks to the shrinking world that we live in.”