SHANGHAI — Across China 9.5 million students are spending three days taking tests that may decide the direction of their lives. The college entrance exams decide who will get one of the just 6.5 million spots open in Chinese universities. But 300 of these Chinese high school students will participate in another academic competition Saturday against 30 Idaho students including some from Bishop Kelly.
They will be delegates in a one-day international economic summit they have trained for throughout the school year. The program is a unique educational experience designed and put on by the International Economic Summit Institute at Boise State University.
"It's a very high level economic simulation of global trade," said Bill Russell, a business law professor and associate dean of the School of Business at Northwest Nazarene University, who is a board member of the institute and was on the trade mission.
The students from multiple schools will be divided up into separate country teams with the task of improving their nation's standard of living through trade. The program, which will be held in Shanghai, was high on Gov. Butch Otter's agenda Monday and he sang its praises at each stop.
His hosts shared his enthusiasm.
"I think this is a very good program and I would suggest increasing it ten times," said Weng Zuliang, mayor of the Luwan District of Shanghai.
Leon Maynard, a economics professor at Boise State and president of the institute, said the program teaches students in both countries about globalization, the value of trade alliances and how nations both compete and cooperate to improve the lives of their citizens. With support from the Federal Reserve Bank and others it reaches out to 75,000 students annually.
And it also helps put Boise State on students radar both domestically and around the world. It has brought Chinese students to Boise for school.
China is racing to increase education for its huge work force and like the United States, has concentrated on improving math and science skills. But understanding economics as well as other nation‚s cultures and histories also is important, said Chen Xiaoyu, Luwan District Vice Mayor of Education.
"This project will enhance the productivity and creativity of the students," he said.
After the luncheon with the Luwan mayor, Otter walked a mile across the People's Square to the People's Government Shanghai Muncipality building for a meeting there. He walked with George Hoffman, executive vice president of Zions Bank, and convinced him to give both financial and resource support to the program.
Maynard arranged a tour for the students Sunday of one of the Shanghai Bright Dairy Corp. dairies.
Unfortunately, the students will arrive after Otter and his delegation have returned to Idaho.