Mayor of Kuopio Jarmo Pirhonen, Deputy Mayor Pekka Vähäkangas, marketing coordinator Laura Kokko, consultant Michael Claussen and onsultant Kai Zhan with the District Governor and local public officials of Shanghai Pudong at the Pudong City hall.
The Mayor of Kuopio, Jarmo Pirhonen, visited Shanghai Pudong in the beginning of April, which also was his first twin town visit as mayor. During the visit, the delegation had meetings with cooperation partners, got to know the city and the local interest groups and shared future ideas with the local actors. The most important meetings were with the District Governor of Shanghai Pudong and public officials and with the representatives of our twinning school, Beicai Senior High School.
The appreciation for Kuopio, the only twin town of Shanghai Pudong, was emphasized in the meeting with the District Governor, Hang Yingwei. The concrete actions and active cooperation in fields of education and culture between the cities as well as annual meetings between the two show the commitment for a versatile collaboration. The long-lasting collaboration with and personal ties to the local government and other local actors in Pudong as well as the work of our liaison officer, Kai Zhan, have guaranteed seamless ties with our twin town across the world.
The city executives also discussed the ongoing construction plans in the cities, for example, the Savilahti project, which has set out to become the most interesting learning- and innovation environment in Europe. Mister Hang stated that in Pudong, parents have high expectations for their children’s education. He feels that the twinning of schools is a good way to help parents understand that good learning outcomes come, not only from studying, but from children having a balance between their free time and schoolwork. It was concluded that the cities have much to share with regards to education.
In addition, winter sports came up at the meeting, as the year 2019 is a winter sports theme year between China and Finland, preceding the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games. Even though it doesn’t snow in Shanghai, an indoor skiing center which is said to be the largest one in the world, is being built nearby. The goal is to make the Chinese people fall in love with winter sports. Also at this very moment, Chinese ski jumpers are practicing in Kuopio aiming to participate in the Olympics. The District Governor of Shanghai Pudong also accepted the invitation to visit Kuopio and try out cross-country skiing!
The city of Kuopio has eight twinning schools in Pudong, from the elementary level to the senior high school level. Since 2012, 200 teachers and nearly 300 students from China have visited our schools. Beicai Senior High School Affiliated to Shanghai Maritime University is Kuopio’s first twinning school in Shanghai Pudong. All the rectors of the twinning schools as well as teachers and other interest groups from the past years had gathered to welcome the delegation.
The Chinese are interested in the curricula, teaching methods, learning environments and further vocational training of teachers in Finland. The goal of Kuopio therefore, is to create a base for future international China experts as well as to increase mutual understanding and cultural knowledge and appreciation between the countries. Hence, emphasis is on host family programmes in most of the student exchange programmes, as it gives the students the opportunity to see how the locals live and participate in their everyday lives and enables them to create personal attachments and relationships with the locals.
At the Beicai High School the delegation was welcomed by a guided tour by the students as well as music and dance recitals. The students also organized a Q&A session for the mayor asking tricky questions about the Finnish educational system. The mayor also had a chance to try out a boat simulator and was interviewed by a local newspaper, Pudong Times, about school twinning and the Finnish educational system.