After a Chinese breakfast of dumplings, tea, congee and hard-boileds eggs in my hotel room, Mr. Lu and I set off for school, accompanied of course by his driver. While he attended the weekly principals' meeting, I spoke to some of the teachers who speak English. They explained the school, the Sino-Canadian School, that is housed within Xingtai No. 1 High School. This school was started by a private individual from Beijing. The purpose is for students who attend and graduate will graduate with both a Chinese and Canadian diploma, and will be able to apply to universities in the US and Canada. There are 5 teachers in this international school - 3 from Canada and 2 from the US, and they work for the organization, not the Chinese school. Mr. Lu acts as liaison between the organization and the school, but according to the teachers he is just a figurehead. There are 94 students in this program, and it is competitive to be accepted. The students pay a much higher tuition rate as well. This school has been operating in Xingtai since 2008; this June will be the graduation of the first class, and I was told that all graduates will go abroad to continue their studies in either Canada or the US.
There are 8,000 students in Xingtai No. 1 High School and about 500 teachers. Class sizes are large - the classes I visited had 60 or so students in each. The students pay tuition to attend, and the amount that they pay is determined by their grades in 9th grade. Students who have the highest grades pay 800 yuan per year, while others pay 6000 or even 6600 yuan per year. The average teacher's salary is only 3,000 yuan per month, and it varies according to their performance, which depends mainly on how well the students perform academically. Each teacher is evaluated by the principal, their colleagues, and the students. Mr. Lu gave me a copy of the scantron sheet that the evaluators complete. I need to have it translated in order to understand the categories.
After what is a normal lunch (2 hours in length), we picked up Mr. Li and the driver took us to Bixiang County. Here is where the famous Han Dynasty peonies can be found. I was told that these 12 plants are the only ones remaining from that time period, and what makes them unique is that they have different flower colors on one plant. Also, they were at one time stolen by the Japanese, transplanted in Japan, but they died. In fact, they have never been successfully grown anywhere else. By the way, did you know that the peony is the Chinese national flower?
After the walk through the beautiful gardens (well, they would have been more beautiful if we would have visited 2 weeks from now when the flowers will be blooming), we stopped at the construction site of a new temple. I donned a hard hat to see how the workers were building the temple around what is the 2nd largest Buddha found in China. The Buddha is from the Tang Dynasty.