Joint delegation to the Shanghai Education Union

In the first week of the September vacation, I was fortunate to be part of the joint QTU/IEUA-QNT delegation to the Shanghai Education Union.

Both unions have a long running relationship with the SEU that has seen numerous delegations to and from China over the past 15 years. The delegation consisted of QTU Vice-President Sam Pidgeon and myself (as a member of the QTU Executive), and from the independent sector teachers union the IEUA-QNT, Secretary Terry Burke, Nic Holliday and Lauran Wise.

Our first stop in Shanghai was to meet with the leadership of the SEU. The union covers teaching and non-teaching staff from all levels of educational institution (from schools to universities, public and private). It has a very strong focus on the welfare of members, establishing staff clubs in institutions and organising a wide range of cultural and sporting events which support the physical and emotional wellbeing of staff. In recent years they have concentrated on establishing spaces on campus where new parents can spend time with their children as part of their return to work.

While in Shanghai, we visited Songjiang University Town, a hub of several universities on the outskirts of the city, where we participated in a joint professional development forum. The focus of the forum was dealing with the challenges China is facing in the growth of private education providers. Sam presented a talk on the Australian experience with TAFE, the impact of government deregulation of the vocational education sector and the spread of private educational providers.

On our last day in Shanghai, we visited Shanghai Zhenru School. This school has recently reinvented itself as a technology school, concentrating on a unified curriculum which connects design and technology with STEM subjects through a series of project-based learning activities. Students there not only assemble and program robots, but are also responsible for fabricating their own robot parts using an impressive array of 3D printers and laser cutters. As a teacher of science, it was interesting for me to draw parallels with the new STEM and programming focus being rolled out across Queensland.

The trip was very rewarding and allowed me to see how a union operates in a different industrial environment. It also allowed me to see the similarities in the challenges that teachers face, both here and in China - workload and workplace stress, and the threat of the commercialisation of educational services loom large in both countries. The delegation has given me a greater understanding of China and Chinese culture which will enrich my approach to teaching Chinese students and working with members of the Queensland Chinese community, both at school and through the QTU.

Peter Darben                                                                                                                     QTU Executive

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 121 No 8, 11 November 2016, p22