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Education is a joint venture

I firmly believe that our children's education is a joint venture and a shared responsibility done by students, parents, teachers and society, all working together to make a difference.

• Students

Learning and getting a good education is important for each child. All students need the full support of their parents, teachers and society to reach their full potential.

If we want our kids to do well in school, we need to have parents who value education, teachers who are passionate about their work and a society in which intellectual achievement is recognized.

• Parents

A parent is the first life-long teacher for a child. As parents, we have the responsibility to teach our children, starting as early as possible.

I know moms who practiced fetal education during pregnancy. They talked to their babies or let their babies listen to music while still in womb. The results show that fetal education is effective. As far as I can tell, these kids are very smart and talented.

For most parents, though, education becomes an important issue only after the babies are born or when they reach school age. It's never too late to start. And it's better late than never.

It's our job as parents to provide a good learning environment for our children and to be good role models for them as life-long learners.

We can read to our children, take them to libraries and buy them books as gifts instead of toys.

We can help them with homework, get involved in their school activities, go to the teacher conferences and have good communication with teachers to stay informed of what's going on in the classrooms.

A teacher friend in an urban school system once told me that many of her students' parents don't come to the teacher conferences.

A parent whose son was very much into all kinds of sports once said to me: "I don't teach my son at home. It is his teacher's job."

If parents are not interested in their children's learning, don't value education or don't respect teachers, it is hard to expect these kids to do very well in school.

Then these parents often blame teachers or schools for not doing a good job if their kids do not do well in school. I think it is not fair for the teachers and schools.

Teachers don't bear the whole responsibilities of educating students. Parents play an even more important role.

So, if our children don't do well in school, we have to first ask ourselves how we are doing as parents, not point fingers at others at the outset.

• Teachers

Teachers certainly have one of the most important jobs in the world. They have the power to change and transform lives.

My own life is a good testimony to that incredible power and influence teachers have over their students.

I can say without any exaggeration that I wouldn't be here today had I not met my high school English teacher. He was my English teacher for only one year, but that one year determined my future and changed my life forever.

He was the best teacher I have ever known. He could transform an average student to an excellent student. Thanks to him, I had the fortune to go to one of the best universities in China.

Even though he passed away a few years ago, I still think of him often, with deepest gratitude for what he has done for me and all of his students.

When I think about what made him such a great and special teacher, several things come to my mind. I believe all great teachers share some common characteristics.

Good teachers are passionate about the work they do. They dedicate their lives to their profession and their students. They do more and give more than the average teachers. They go the extra miles.

They are good because they know how to teach and are good at what they do. They can make a boring subject interesting.

They can awaken interest in students who are not interested in the beginning. They have the respect of students. They care about their students. They treat them like their own kids.

They are generous. They give their time, their knowledge and wisdom, and resources often bought with their own money to the students.

They are good teachers because they are good people in the first place. Their own lives are an inspiration for the students. Because of them, students strive to do better and be better.

I feel so lucky that I had a teacher who embodied these characteristics. Because of him, I did better than I would have done without him.

• Society

Parents and teachers play important roles in a child's education. But the society and the culture in which we live in are also important.

I think in American society, we value athletic achievements msore than academic achievements. We idolize athletes to the extreme. That's why many young people and their parents spend much more time and efforts in sports than in learning.

We idolize a lot of things and people that lack substance.

I remember many years ago while I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, I met a women from Germany. When I asked her what she thought of this country, she said she didn't like it here, because "America has no culture."

America as a country does not have a long history, comparing to Germany or other countries. America certainly has a lot of pop culture, but in her view, lacks substance.

I hope we could have some cultural shift in this country. We would put more value on education and academic achievement.

Maybe some day, those people who win Nobel prizes can at least enjoy the same social status as some celebrity athletes, if not more. These are the people who will leave a bigger legacy for the mankind. And they deserve more recognition and respect.