At a recent Youth NABC (North American Bridge Championships) held in Philadelphia during July 12-22, 36 out of approximately 130 competitors came from China.
Twenty one of the Chinese players who participated are students from RDFZ, or the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, one of the best high schools in Beijing, China.
When Randy Pan, a 12-year-old student from RDFZ, played in the 2009 Youth NABC held in Washington DC, he was the only player from China that year. His father, an attorney for Johnson & Johnson in Beijing, had learned of the Youth NABC from a visit to the Atlanta Junior Bridge website.
RDFZ’s bridge club is coached by Hu Jichao, a physics teacher at the school. Mr. Hu considers playing bridge an excellent activity for kids because it is good for brain development and encourages students to learn how to work together.
Of the over 150 elective classes offered at RDFZ, bridge is one of the most popular. Over 300 students sign up every semester, and classes are divided into four different levels so that students can be placed into one that is suitable for their playing skills.
Six students from RDFZ have been invited to play on the Chinese national team, and the school has also won several national high school bridge tournaments.
Offering bridge as well as myriad of other elective classes such as food sculpture, chess, movie appreciation, yoga, calligraphy, western philosophy, and American cooking, is part of an overall attempt by RDFZ principal Liu Pengzhi to offer her students a well rounded education.
In China, most students have very little time to participate in extracurricular activities or explore personal interests. Schools and teachers focus on one thing and one thing only: academic performance. Students take endless quizzes and tests, so that they can be well prepared for the two exams that everyone considers important: the high school and college entrance exams.
RDFZ, under Liu Pengzhi’s leadership, is trying to change that education mode and put more emphasis into encouraging creativity and individual development.
Kids like Randy Pan and his bridge class friends at RDFZ are the fortunate few who have benefited from their school’s innovative approach to education. It will be interesting to see if more schools in China will follow suit. (Pun intended!)