China Exchange Initiative (CEI), currently led by Peihui Wang, was launched in 1999 to facilitate educational exchange between the United States and China. It was established by two American educators – Charlotte Mason and Carolyn Henderson, then co-chairs of the Newton-Beijing Jingshan Student Exchange Program, the oldest high school student exchange program in the US. CEI was backed for many years by the Freeman Foundation, founded by legendary philanthropist, Houghton Freeman. Much of Freeman’s life was spent promoting mutual understanding between people in the U.S. and East Asia, and CEI fit comfortably into Freeman’s worldview and mission.
Over the years, CEI has sponsored many such exchanges between the two countries, collaborating with hundreds of school systems in twenty-three American states and seventeen Chinese provinces. These programs have connected everyday Chinese and Americans at many levels, including:
- regular exchanges of teachers and students
- One-on-one principal shadowing projects
- exchanges between music groups, sports teams, and other affinity groups
- shared distance learning projects
- conferences, workshops and camps for teaching and learning.
Through it all, CEI’s mission has been to provide students, teachers, administrators, and families in both countries the opportunity to become involved with the excitement of intercultural learning.
Peihui Wang is director of China Exchange Initiative. She joined the organization in 2007, and took on CEI’s executive role in 2011. Peihui is a trained and experienced educator. Born and raised in Chengdu, China, she taught English language studies for twelve years in prestigious No. 7 High School in that city. In recognition of her accomplishments, in 1996 she was among a small, select group of Chinese teachers chosen for a national exchange program with the United States. She spent the next year teaching high school in Cambridge, MA.
For Peihui, the year in the Boston area proved to be exhilarating and life-altering. It exposed her and sparked a deeper interest in American education and methods, in particular how they contrasted with her training and experience in China. Even though a student’s schooling in the two systems would be very different it could not be said that one was better than the other. Rather, each system had its strengths and weaknesses and much to learn from the other.
Her own experience made Peihui a believer in the power of expanded educational horizons. CEI is her continuing effort to provide for others opportunities that she herself found so powerful in her own life.