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XU Montessori partners with China to mirror program across the nation

By Andrew Koch
On December 9, 2012

Anyone familiar with Xavier mythos knows that it was always St. Francis Xavier's hope to one day go to China and work as a missionary. In fact, he is said to have died staring with longing at the Chinese shore.
It seems appropriate that 450 years later, the University that bears his name will now be one of the first to partner with a university in China through Xavier University Montessori program's new partnership in the city of Zhengzhou.
Last month, a delegation from China's Zhengzhou Normal University signed a "memorandum of understanding" with Xavier after touring a number of the United States' premier Montessori education programs, including those at Harvard and Stanford.
The goal of the partnership is to establish a Montessori program at Zhengzhou University that mirrors the one present at Xavier. According to Gina Lofquist, director of the Montessori education program at Xavier, Zhengzhou has a great need and desire for Montessori education methods. She hopes that Xavier's school in Zhengzhou will serve as "a model for authentic practice" that will better serve the educational needs of children there. Lofquist stated that the ultimate goal of the partnership is to develop Zhengzhou's Montessori program to where it can effectively teach Montessori methods while respecting the Chinese culture.
"We want to empower them to do Montessori the right way," Mark Meyers, dean of the College of Social Sciences, Health and Education said.
The commission is also working to eventually establish a kind of student exchange program in which Chinese students aspiring to be Montessori teachers can study at Xavier. Lofquist also hopes that Xavier students will have the opportunity to study abroad not just in Zhengzhou, but in other regions in China as well. Cofquist commented that Xavier has also been building relationships with universities in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Lofquist attributed the delegation's selection to the success of Xavier's Montessori program as an institution internationally recognized for its effective use of the Montessori method. She stated that while many students are unaware of the program's success and reputation, Xavier has become the standard by which other universities' Montessori programs model themselves.
"Some people have said that Xavier is the 'Harvard of Montessori,' but I like to say that Xavier is the 'Xavier of Montessori,'" Meyers mused. Montessori education is a teaching method based on the work of Maria Montessori, a Catholic physician and educator who believed in creating a classroom environment quite different from conventional teaching methods.
The Montessori method places special emphasis on the social aspect of learning and encourages students to be more creative and risk-takers. Montessori education has produced some of the century's most notable innovators, including Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Internet monolith Google, and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia.
Xavier's Montessori education has distinguished itself from similar programs in the past by becoming the first of its kind to offer a masters-level degree. The program also boasts a unique lab school that provides children from the Cincinnati community with an education in the Montessori tradition and Xavier Montessori education students with real-world experience in the classroom.
The delegates from Zhengzhou, hoping to incorporate Xavier's commitment to the Montessori pedagogy into their own university, seemed to have this in mind when they made their decision in early October.
The public library in Zhengzhou has set aside land for Xavier to create a lab school similar to its own that will serve as an educational facility for children seeking the Montessori educational model and for aspiring teachers looking to be trained in the tradition effectively.
According to Lofquist, the delegation was especially struck by Xavier's motto "Better education for a better world."
"There is such a belief in this administration that ['Better education for a better world'] can happen," said Lofquist said.
Indeed, Meyers, Lofquist and their staff note how the project's commitment to enhancing education worldwide reflects Xavier's Jesuit heritage.

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