How to Build School Partnerships


Nothing sparks our desire to study another language and learn about a region—its culture and people—more than a deeply engaging and enlightening exchange experience when we are young. Sustainable, meaningful international school partnerships provide tomorrow’s citizens and leaders the opportunity to engage, understand, respect, and collaborate with one another by gaining a firsthand appreciation of each other’s language and way of life.

While we’ve seen growing interest and some successful US-China school partnerships, many more would flourish if goals for students, faculty, and leaders were clearly articulated, and guidance and support were readily available on both sides of the partnership.

Goals and Stakeholders

An overarching goal for many American schools is to use school partnerships to promote the teaching and learning of Chinese language and culture. To make these partnerships last, however, we must pay equal attention to ensuring benefits for the Chinese schools. A powerful objective on the part of Chinese schools is to improve their students’ English language skills.

Another goal is to ensure long-term success of a program. To accomplish this, the entire school commmunity should have a stake in the relationship. When parents, other faculty members, and the community are involved, the US-China exchange program has a vast support structure so that the partnership will thrive over time. Too often, with the departure of one teacher or coordinator, a program can collapse.

Here are some other goals to consider for various audiences in each school:


  1. Learn and utilize Chinese language and culture skills in an immersive and engaging environment
  2. Develop awareness and appreciation of cultures and people beyond the boundaries of their community, country, and language
  3. Acquire the disposition and skills to collaborate with Chinese students to find solutions to common problems
  4. Be able to critically seek and evaluate information and make sense of it within the context of their community and that of their Chinese peers’ community


  1. Develop professional knowledge about China (people, politics, geography, economy, science and technology, art, literature, history, etc.) to integrate into their own discipline and curriculum or to provide more effective Chinese language and culture instruction
  2. Be able to conceptualize and develop collaborative projects to engage students of both schools (e.g. joint curriculum, units, seminars, debates, media projects, and lab experiments)
  3. Take part in a community of global learners to acquire and share best practices in education, including content, use of technology, methodology, assessment tools, etc.

School or District Leaders

  1. Understand the value of language and culture education, and foster stronger support for such opportunities for students and the school community
  2. Encourage and engage the community to develop interactions with the partner school’s community
  3. By exploring and appreciating the systems and challenges of the partner’s education system, gain a deeper understanding of those factors in their own system, and adopt best practices to improve all aspects of school management, curriculum instruction, funding, parental and community relations, etc.

Author: Jeff Wang

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