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To China and back again

While touring the Great Wall of China, Huffman poses for a picture with a class of elementary school children who were on a field trip to the wall.1 / 2
Huffman stands in front of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China. Photos submitted2 / 2

School uniforms are not usually something students enjoy wearing, but Chinese students have a different perspective.

At least that is the way it would seem from what Scott Huffman, an associate principal at Hudson High School, said about his experiences on his trip to China at the beginning of April, which lasted a little less than three weeks.

"Every school has a different uniform," Huffman said. "The uniforms even vary between grades, where freshmen have a slightly different uniform than seniors do."

The uniforms that the students wear are not the same as what is traditionally seen at schools that require them in the United States.

In China, their outfits are much less formal. They are more like track suits, with a jacket and pants.

Unlike most students who are required to wear uniforms for school in America, the Chinese students do not complain about having to wear them.

"In the Chinese culture there is not a lot of questioning authority," Huffman said. "They are more about compliance. They are gracious about everything that they receive."

During his stay in China, Huffman said he was treated like a "rock-star" by the kids and like a "foreign diplomat" by the adults.

Over the three weeks of his trip, Huffman found many similarities between the students in Hudson and those in China.

"Kids are kids," Huffman said, "The more I saw and interacted with the students over there, the more I realized that they were a lot like students here in Hudson. They want to learn and have fun just like everyone else."

But along with those similarities come some differences as well.

Not all Chinese students go to school through the twelfth grade like most do in America. Students have comprehensive schooling through the ninth grade, but have to do well on a test in order to continue on in school.

If they do not do well enough on the test, students stop going to school and have to find a job.

There are two options for those students who pass the test. They can either go to a vocational school, which teaches a trade like plumbing, or, if they score high enough, attend an academic high school.

After three more years of school at an academic high school, students take another test to see if they can make it into college.

"There is a huge pressure on them to do well in school," Huffman said. "There are no extracurricular activities for the students. They just focus on school."

At Harbin number six, Hudson's sister school in Harbin, China, the students have school from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The students have nine classes throughout the day, including biology, chemistry, physics, math and history or social studies. Then they have gym two times a week and they have art and music once a week.

"Their gym, music, and art classes are not the same as you would see here in Hudson," Huffman said. "For gym they pick between basketball, badminton, ping pong and a dance class and they play that sport two times a week. They do one class for three months then they switch."

Art class is less about painting or drawing and more about the history of art while the music classes do not involve playing any real music; instead the students listen to music by famous composers.

Everything that the students learn and do in the academic high school is geared toward the test they have to take in order to get into college.

"There is a big difference academically when you compare Hudson to Harbin," Huffman said. "The students in Harbin have anywhere from three to six hours of homework every night. The two systems are just different not worse or better than each other. There is definitely a lot more competition between students in China."

Sometimes the students are up until midnight doing homework and they still get up at 6 a.m. to be at school for 7:30.

Classes rotate every day for the Chinese students, but they never have to leave their classrooms because the teachers come to them.

"Some days they have math or a science two times a day since they don't have gym, art, and music every day," Huffman said. "The last class of the day is twice as long as the rest. They call it their evening class."

Now that Huffman has gotten a chance to see both systems of education he said that he still strongly believes in Hudson's comprehensive model.

"The good part of our model is that there is something here for everyone," Huffman said.

He hopes that in the future the relationships that the Hudson schools are making with the schools in Harbin, China will help open up opportunities for students.

Huffman said that part of the goal of setting up this exchange is to help keep up with other countries and better understand them so we can work with them more easily in the future.