Several Rutherford County schoolchildren, parents and teachers were welcomed to China Tuesday as part of a unique educational exchange organized by MTSU.
The 28-member delegation, in country for two weeks, will visit classrooms, participate in enrichment activities and go with Chinese families for home visits as part of the reciprocal exchange with Dongcheng Education Group of Hangzhou Normal University.
It is the third such trip led by MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and his wife, retired Murfreesboro City Schools teacher Elizabeth McPhee. Rutherford students visited China in 2012 and 2014, and Dongcheng students came to Murfreesboro in 2013 and 2015.
“While there are many other cultural-exchange programs between nations, I think this program is one of the most unique and one of the most successful in the world,” President McPhee said.
Dongcheng oversees a network of magnet-style schools in Hangzhou, allowing Rutherford students to participate in classroom activities during the visit, McPhee said.
Also, Elizabeth McPhee, aided by teachers in the delegation, will conduct a joint class for Chinese and American students, then host a workshop for Chinese teachers.
“It brings many aspects — education, culture, social, families — and we learn from each other and respect each other,” President McPhee said.
Dongcheng Chairman Lin Zhengfan thanked the McPhees and let them know that he plans to extend the exchange in 2017 with a return visit to Murfreesboro.
“It’s the fifth year of our exchange and I am so impressed by Mr. McPhee and Mrs. McPhee,” Lin said.
The delegation arrived Sunday in Shanghai, then traveled to Hangzhou Tuesday, where they will spend most of their visit. They will also go to Beijing before departing for home.
MTSU’s Confucius Institute, a joint effort between the Hangzhou and Murfreesboro universities, oversees the annual exchange. Families paid their travel expenses to China, but most housing and travel costs were covered by the institute and Dongcheng.
Named for the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, the institute is sponsored by China’s Education Ministry to promote Chinese language, history and culture through tours, exchanges and university partnerships. There are more than 440 institutes in 120 countries.
Under the leadership of Director Guanping Zheng, MTSU’s institute has helped teach Chinese language and culture to more than 2,000 students in seven Tennessee counties. It also offers long-distance language training via satellite TV and the Internet.
MTSU also recently opened its new Chinese Music and Cultural Center, which was funded from a $1 million grant from Hanban, the headquarters operation of the Confucius Institutes.