Feature: Building an educational bridge between China, U.S.

CHICAGO, May 27 (Xinhua) -- Building a two-way educational bridge between U.S. and China is what Tom Watkins has dreamed of.

It is "for the betterment of the students and society," Watkins, former Michigan state superintendent of schools, told Xinhua.

Since a primary school teacher sparked his interest in China, Watkins has dedicated his life to building bridges, economically, culturally and educationally, between China and the United States. "One of the best ways to build relationship and forge a shared vision and common agenda is around education," he said.

He worked with the Confucius Institute to bring Chinese teachers to U.S., invited Chinese principals, teachers, university professors and presidents to conferences in the United States.

Meanwhile, he has visited countless Chinese schools and universities. "China has a long and rich history of educating its people... The concept of teamwork, tolerance, co-operation and harmony are strong skills that students gain as part of the greater society and Chinese education," he told Xinhua.

"Chinese students are, overall, much better behaved, calm and compliant in the classroom," he added, which is rarely seen at the same level as Western education.

But given all these, he admits: "neither U.S. nor Chinese system of education has all the answers," the two countries should learn from each other.

Statistics released by U.S. Institute of International Education in November 2017 show that in the 2016-17 academic year, students from the Chinese mainland studying in U.S. reached 350,755, up 6.8 percent year on year and making up 32.5 percent of total international student studying in the United States. China has become the largest source of foreign students for U.S. colleges and universities for eight years running.

This one-way direction prompted Watkins to do something: bringing U.S. education essence to China.

He becomes a partner of the Way American School, an innovative educational company in U.S. that is partnering with China's Bright Scholar Schools to offer the best of Chinese and U.S. education to students living in China.

The partnership has proved to be a supplementary program to standard Chinese curriculum, and equipped Chinese students with the critical academic foundation and skillsets necessary to succeed in their future pursuit of higher education both at home and abroad.

By building educational bridge, Watkins also aims to forge a deeper understanding between Chinese and Americans.

"The relationship between China and U.S. is, and will remain the most important bilateral relationship on the planet," Watkins said. "By creating ways to strengthen our nations' bond through education bodes well for the U.S., China and all of humanity."

Now serving as managing director of China operations at WAY American School, Watkins will move to China full time this summer. "There is nothing more important to the individual, family and society than the education of our youth. This is true regardless if you are Chinese or American."