Student exchange programs are not new – but one that attracts 270 million viewers is.
The show is called ‘We are Young’.
Four Australian students spent 20 days finding out what it’s like to go to school in China, while four Chinese students got a taste for learning the Australian way.
Lexie Dent, 17, is attending Sydney’s Mosman High and studying Mandarin. The year-12 student was sent to Number 15 school in Beijing.
Her appearance in the first two epsiodes screened so far has won her instant fame, and her social media accounts are abuzz with fan mail.
“It’s fun I guess – I haven’t had this kind of attention before,” she says.
Program makers say they want to highlight the social, cultural and educational differences between Chinese and Australian classrooms, and to do that each student was given a mission to complete by the end of their stay.
For Lexie it was a 10-minute presentation on Chinese Culture delivered in Mandarin, but a sudden illness prevented her from making her speech to the class.
“And so I did the speech over Skype – and I think I did a fairly good job. I don’t know about my pronunciation, I don’t know if was that great but they clapped, so I’m just going to say it was ok”.
Sean Chivers, 17, a baseball player from Narrabeen Sports High on Sydney’s northern beaches, was sent to another school in Beijing.
He was shocked by the students’ workload, with school starting at 7am and finishing at 7pm.
His task was to learn a new sport – volleyball – and play for the school team.
He also enjoyed debunking a stereo-type. “I am six-foot, and the tallest in the class was 6-5 and the average was about 6-3, so I was the short kid in the class”.
The success of the show has surprised its makers.
The show’s director Karlene Meenahan believes it’s down to China’s obsession with providing the best education.
“They came to us with the idea of education being something that is big for them. That’s a huge topic and that’s why they came to us. Education is topical,” she said.
An Australian version of the show is due to be finished by the end of the year.