STAWELL - Skene Street School teacher Lois Humphries has returned from a successful visit to China, which included a tour of Yiwu Xingguang Experimental School.
Yiwu Xingguang Experimental School and Skene Street Specialist School signed an historic sister school partnership in October last year and Mrs Humphries' tour was a follow up to the signing of that agreement.
"It was an opportunity for me to visit the school and share ideas with teachers," Mrs Humphries said.
"They knew we were coming, so the school planned musical activities and performances. It was a very relaxing day, which was good."
A lot of the students at the Yiwu Experimental School are deaf, while there is another group of students with intellectual disabilities.
Mrs Humphries said this made the two schools very similar in many ways.
"The schooling of children with an intellectual disability in China is a fairly new concept for them to be working in. That's why it is called an experimental school," she said.
"It is a whole new area for them, so while China is developing globally, there are still areas where they are just learning, so that was a real eye opener for me.
"In many ways though, the way the two schools operate is very similar. We are the same in the ways of the disabilities the children have, behaviour and they have many of the same issues that we have in Australia."
Mrs Humphries said a highlight of the visit to the school was being given the opportunity to enjoy lunch with the students and teachers.
"It was a really good experience, more relaxed and it allowed for more interaction," she said.
"Everything was quite formal last year, but this time it was a lot more relaxed. I think to be invited into the canteen for lunch was special, as they realised they didn't have to put on an extravagant banquet to impress us."
Following the lunch, Mrs Humphries spoke at length with teachers from the school, who asked a lot of questions relating to teaching methods and how at Skene Street, the teachers deal with wheelchair-bound students.
"The teachers were eager to learn how we cope with all types of situations within the classroom. It was a fairly lengthy discussion and very rewarding," Mrs Humphries said.
Mrs Humphries then visited an art class with older students and a class where younger children were being taught the art of hand washing clothes.
"The staff really care for the children and can see the potential for their children," she said.
"They are aware the children will probably work in factories when they are older, but they will be important people in society.
"Culturally I think it was very important and helpful for us to be invited into their environment."
Mrs Humphries also visited a school in Taishan, which is the sister city to Ararat and had dialogue with teachers.
The Taishan school is much more modern and was built in what the Chinese call a country area, being five kilometres from the main city.
"The school in Taishan was different to the Experimental School, but what they are trying to do for the students is the same and it's the same as what we are doing here," she said.
"Our aim is to make the students self sufficient when they leave school."
As a result of the visit, an invitation has been sent to the principal of the Yiwu Xingguang Experimental School to travel to Australia and visit Skene Street.
"This will be important for us, because in Australia, we do specialist education quite well," Mrs Humphries said.
"The educational aspect of visiting China and hosting a return visit is a big thing, but the cultural aspect is also very important.
"Hosting a return visit will be vital to ensure they get to see first hand how we operate in our own environment."