Chinese teacher Tiffany Cai laps a group of tired students as she participates in the Roch Courreges Elementary School jog-a-thon. The Chinese principals and teachers have been visiting the school all week. (Don Leach, HB Independent / November 6, 2013)

Six Chinese educators spent the week touring Courreges Elementary School in Fountain Valley. They shadowed teachers, met with students and participated in the jog-a-thon fundraiser.

The five principals and one teacher from Shenzhen, China, came as part of a 20-member delegation scheduled to visit four schools in the area with the goal of learning from the U.S. educational system.

"We want our students to get more global ideas," said Chinese teacher Tiffany Cai. "We want our students to learn in the way that American students, or Western country students, are doing."

Courreges Principal Chris Christensen said the Chinese delegation also had the chance to meet with school board members and the superintendent. On Thursday, some of the foreign educators ran with the children in the school's jog-a-thon, Courreges' biggest fundraiser.

Cai noted differences between the two countries' educational systems but also similarities: "the teachers' strong love of their students" and the students' willingness "to learn and ... to communicate."

Among the differences, Cai spoke of smaller class sizes at Courreges and the strong presence of parent volunteers. She said her average class in China is 45 students, whereas Christensen said Courreges averages 30 students per class.

Christensen visited China on a similar exchange in April with another principal, a school board member and the superintendent. He noted differences in approach, explaining that the elementary schools he visited used a university-style teaching method, with teachers specializing in one subject and teaching the students in a lecture setting.

"They can't believe how many things we do throughout the course of the day and how we do not go into the classroom just to lecture," Christensen said. "There is a lot more variety when you walk into an American classroom compared to theirs."

Cai said one thing she would take back to China is how Courreges' teachers separated students into collaborative groups and used parent volunteers to help with the different activities.

"We want the students to be more independent in their own studies and get more cooperative works in classroom studies," Cai said, adding that she would also like to see an increase in parent volunteers.

Christensen said education in the U.S. seems to focus more on creativity than in China.

"They say we are definitely more creative teachers, where they are very academic, so they want to learn more about Western culture," Christensen said.

Cai said the most interesting program she learned about was one that involved poor readers who would practice aloud to dogs.

The group's last day with the group was Friday. Cai, who said she enjoyed bonding with the teachers and students, collected email addresses to take back to China so her students could interact with their American peers.

"People are so open-minded and easygoing.They like to talk," Cai said. "Nobody is a stranger here."

The group is heading to San Francisco this week to visit more schools.