Ron Grech/The Daily Press
Northern College signed a partnership agreement Friday allowing two more of its programs to be taught at a post-secondary institute in China.
Representatives from Hunan Industry Polytechnic, located in the Hunan Province capital of Changsha, were in Timmins on Friday to sign licensing agreements to teach Northern College’s Electrical Engineering Technician and Motive Power Technician-Automotive Service programs.
Both are two-year diploma programs.
The Timmins-based college has partnerships with nine Chinese post-secondary institutions.
Northern College has been partnered with Hunan Industry Polytechnic since 2015, allowing the local college’s Mechanical Engineering Technician program to be taught overseas.
“Currently, they have licensed our mechanical engineering program, which is taught in China at their school, in English,” Fred Gibbons, president and chief executive officer of Northern College, told The Daily Press Friday.
“Students studying in the program are studying our curriculum and when students graduate, they receive a Northern College diploma. They’ve indicated they would like to enter into an agreement for two more programs. So that is the intent of the signing and their trip today.”
Gibbons explained, “The interest of the Chinese people right now with North American education, it’s twofold. One, it allows them an opportunity to immigrate with a Canadian education credential. For many Asian families, college diplomas are important to have but the real objective is to obtain a university degree and it’s much easier to access a Canadian university with an Ontario college diploma than with Chinese credentials. So that is one of the primary motivators.
“The other is, there is a real appetite and interest in China for North American curriculum, and the way North American curriculum is taught. The teaching styles in China are very, very different. So as part of these agreements, not only are students studying our curriculum in China, but we have several exchanges of faculty over the course of the year, where faculty come over here (from China) to be taught the methods that we use in our classrooms for instruction. They bring that teaching back and begin to impart that technique in their own classrooms.”
Chinese classrooms are typically characterized as being more stringent and formal than North American. However, Gibbons said there is an expanding desire in China to adopt the more pliable and interactive teaching methods used in Northern American classrooms – which fits in with these increasing number of agreements Northern College has been signing.
“The method of teaching in China has probably not changed in a thousand years,” explained Gibbons. “I would describe it as very Socratic. So you have the teacher, the master of all wisdom and knowledge standing at the front of the classroom imparting his teaching. There isn’t much encouragement for students to ask questions. There is not a lot of interactivity within the classroom. Students really memorize information and then at exam time, they regurgitate it. That is so passé as we know.
“So what they are attempting to do bring that North American teaching style into their classrooms so that students work in smaller study groups, and there is a lot more interactivity in the classrooms, more collaborative activity amongst the students, as opposed to just being lectured to.”
Gibbons said there are about half a dozen Northern College programs currently being taught at post-secondary institutes in China. Most of them are in technical trades though there has also been demand for programs in business administration and early childhood education.
The agreements still have to be signed off by the president of Hunan Industry Polytechnic who was supposed to be in Timmins for the signing ceremony on Friday, but got held up at the border because his passport was lost or stolen while they were in transit going through the United States.
“So he was not allowed to come into Canada,” explained Gibbons. “He has since returned home and the gentleman who will be sitting in on the signing (Peng Yuexiang, director of education administration at Hunan Industry Polytechnic) will take the agreements back to China for the president to sign off on.
“These new programs, once these agreements are signed, would be given to the Chinese government for their approval. They will likely start to recruit this time next year, so the first offering of the program would start in September of 2020.”
Timmins Mayor Steve Black, who attended the signing ceremony, said, “I think this is very important work that the college is doing, expanding their international ties throughout the world. The college is one of the most important institutions we have in the city from a community perspective and we’re always talking about youth retention and attracting people to the community and the college is definitely one of our key assets in that respect.”
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