Monday, May 19, 2008

Studying at Zhuo-Zheng Yuan 拙政園

Minutes after stepping into 拙政園, I found these students from an international school. There is a growing community of foreigners working in and around the science and technology park in the east side of Suzhou. In fact, the hotel that I stayed in used to be an international school. When the school outgrew the campus and moved to a new one nearly, the old school was then converted into a hotel. No wonder I thought the reception hall looked oddly small.

A teacher was pointing out the layout of different elements of the Chinese garden: the articulated ponds as the center of the garden, the strategic locations of the man-make hills, the variety of trees, the different styles of the pavilions, ...

About an hour later, when I exit the garden, I found them again sketching in one of the courtyards. The teacher was again pointing out the architectural elements, and asking them to find something interesting to draw. It surely beats sitting in a classroom.

I can’t help but think: while most of our children are being asked to draw imaginary houses while sitting within the four plain walls of their classrooms, some of these kids are being steeped in visually-rich sceneries distilled through hundreds, even thousands, of years of culture.

It is not hard to see which type of education is more preferable. But it is considerably harder to figure out how we can provide the preferred education to our children. It is not just an issue of money, it is also a matter of philosophy and imagination.

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