A pupil introduces a wall with children's paintings on Aug 18, 2020, at the Xiong'an branch of Beijing Zhongguancun No 3 Primary School in Xiongxian county, Xiong'an New Area, Hebei province. [Photo by Zhang Yu/China Daily]
"My little cousin envies me so much, because she wants to go to our school too!" Li Keke, a 12-year-old pupil, giggled while telling her teacher.
The girl is a student at Xiongxian No 2 Primary School in Xiongxian county, Xiong'an New Area, Hebei province.
The reason her cousin-who attends another primary school in the county-envies her is that Li's school life has become more colorful since Xiong'an was established.
Located about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing, Xiong'an New Area was set up in 2017 to undertake Beijing's functions not essential to its role as the nation's capital. Some universities, research institutes, medical institutes, enterprise headquarters and financial institutions in Beijing will move there.
To help improve the quality of education in Xiong'an, more than 50 schools in neighboring Beijing, Tianjin and other neighboring cities have cooperated to upgrade schools in the new area, improving teaching methods and course outlines while taking into account students' extracurricular lives, said Xia Shaohua, deputy head of Xiong'an New Area Public Service Bureau.
The school Keke attends was transformed into a branch of Zhongguancun No 3 Primary School-located in Haidian district in Beijing-in March 2018. Since then, teaching levels and courses have been upgraded in accordance with the standard in Beijing.
The school in Haidian has sent 12 teachers to teach or work at Li's school in Xiongxian.
"I've joined three school clubs-poetry, sports and chorus. It's very interesting!" Keke said.
She said that every school day, from 9:40 am to 10:20 am, teachers take students to the playground to exercise.
"In the past, we only did one kind of exercise repeatedly from day to day, but now we have many different choices, like soccer, basketball, running and street dancing," she said, adding that she likes soccer most.
"What's more, we can have a math class at the playground. You know why? Because our teacher lets us measure distances there when the book has related content. That was impossible in the past."
All the changes Keke has experienced were introduced by the team tasked with making the upgrades headed by Zhang Wenfeng, who is principal of the school in Xiongxian. Zhang said the school has recruited more gym teachers, reduced the number of students per class, increased training for teachers and held the same activities as the school in Beijing.
The principal knows Keke through a poem she wrote last year.
"In 2017, when I was 9, I was here in Xiong'an; in 2018, when I was 10, I was here in Xiong'an; in 2019, when I was 11, I was here in Xiong'an; in 2035, when I am 27, I will still be here in Xiong'an, to make my contribution to its development."
"I love the poem very much because it shows her love for her hometown and her expectations for the future," Zhang said.
By 2035, Xiong'an is expected to become a high-level, modern area with not only high-end and high-tech companies leading its economy, but also a livable society with a green and low-carbon environment and high-quality public services, according to an official blueprint for the area's development.
People will be able to walk to parks and green ways in five minutes; primary schools, sports spaces, shopping malls and markets in 10 minutes; and medical institutions and cultural activity centers in 15 minutes, the blueprint said.