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Chinese teachers celebrate three years of Apple’s Friends
The Apple’s Friends conference was held in the spacious sea-port city of Dalian, on the eastern coast of China. Over 100 teachers from all over the country gathered to share their experience of the programme and how it had helped their pupils. Two local teachers ran demonstration classes on the stage of the conference hall – quite a daunting task in front of so many peers! But they rose to the challenge, treating us to an Apple song (based around the Golden Rules), big displays and exercises prompted by short video scenarios of problems with friends. The children spoke up willingly, and every child who spoke about a difficult situation had a solution suggested by a classmate.
A selection of teachers from different regions spoke movingly of individual children whom the programme had helped. One boy with special needs struggled to join in any regular classes, but eventually managed to join a group discussion in an Apple’s Friends class. We heard a touching recording of his father (who had been called to the school on a daily basis to deal with his son) thanking the teacher for the programme.
In the breaks we had a chance to look at the array of artwork produced by Apple classes – illustrated booklets of the completed stories, stuffed Apple toys, and even badges. The range of creativity shown by the children was really impressive.
On the second day Prof Gao, national coordinator of Apple's Friends in China, presented the results of her research over the three years. This showed that over 80% of children had improved significantly in the skills taught in all six modules, and over 90% of teachers agreed that the programme had helped them to show their own feelings in class, make a more active classroom, continue with Apple’s Friends, and be a better teacher.
The challenge going forward will be how to ‘localise’ the programme in accordance with the Chinese government’s policy that all school materials should be Chinese, rather than imported. Prof Gao will enlist the help of a group of experienced teachers to oversee the revisions, such as the re-drawing of all the illustrations to show Chinese children and settings. This will be the first time that the programme materials have been altered in any significant way in all our different cultures and countries – but it’s essential to keep Apple’s Friends running in China.
Prof Gao will ensure that the spirit and content of the programme, and the skills it teaches, remain intact to benefit Chinese children in future years.