Confucius Institutions foster Chinese
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Sep 20 13:27:58 UTC 2007
The Language Connection
Educational Renaissance / 'Confucius' fosters Chinese
By Keiko Katayama and Takashi Noguchi Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers
The following are excerpts from The Yomiuri Shimbun's Educational
Renaissance series. This part of the series, continued from last week,
focuses on what is happening in China's higher education. As a national
policy, the Chinese government has been setting up Confucius Institutions
since 2004 at universities and language schools all over the world to
promote its culture and language (Mandarin), offering teaching materials
and dispatching instructors to these schools. Although the government set
an initial goal to open 100 Confucius Institutions by 2010, that goal has
already been achieved--as of June this year, there were 156 schools,
including some satellite campuses--in 54 countries and territories.
In Japan, eight universities housed a Confucius Institution, with another
university preparing to open one more. J.F. Oberlin University in Machida,
Tokyo, is one of the eight, with its Confucius Institution located in
front of the nearest train station.
The Confucius Institution at J.F. Oberlin University is one of just a few
to offer a one-year intensive course, which it established last year.
Beginning-level students in the course, just several months after starting
to learn Chinese, study for one month in the summer at Tongi University in
Shanghai, one of China's prestigious higher educational institutions.
Li Zhenai, 38, is in charge of a beginning-level conversation class in the
intensive course. As a postdoctoral student at Ochanomizu University in
Tokyo, Li is a fluent speaker of Japanese, but speaks only Chinese during
"For beginners, it's most important to train listening comprehension
skills," she said. "I always arrange what to teach depending on my
students' situations so that my classes would not end with one-way
communication from the teacher's side."
J.F. Oberlin University dates back to 1921, when founder Yasuzo Shimizu
opened a girl's school in Beijing. Along with Ritsumeikan University in
Kyoto, which also enjoys strong ties with China, it is one of the nation's
first universities to set up a Confucius Institution.
"Acquiring Chinese-language skills is not a goal [in itself]. It's a basis
for understanding the Chinese civilization," said Masaaki Mitsuta,
principal of the Confucius Institution at J.F. Oberlin University. "Our
goal is to help the students [in the intensive course] develop sufficient
language skills in one year to be able to take all-Chinese courses, for
example, on politics and economics."
"We also fling down a challenge to Japan's higher educational
institutions," the principal added. "Here, even though students major in
particular foreign languages, many of them cannot speak the target ones
The Confucius Institution at J.F. Oberlin University has adopted the
"direct method" to expose its students to a shower of Chinese all the time
because its faculty has concluded that the approach is effective in
helping students reach a certain level in a short period such as one year.
The students at the intensive course take an average of 19 classes per
week, each of which lasts for 90 minutes. Of them, only six classes, such
as those on interpreting, allow them to use Japanese.
All of the course's morning classes are taught by instructors who are
dispatched from Tongi University in turn. These teachers encourage the
students to read sentence patterns aloud over and over until they actually
can use them on their own.
The intensive course started with nine students last year, but the student
body has expanded to 30 this year, aged from 18 to 73, who were selected
through screening tests. Those who complete the one-year course can
transfer to the second year of Tongi or J.F. Oberlin universities.
Some of the 30 students have already passed the eighth grade of Hanyu
Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK), a Chinese-language proficiency test for which the
11th grade is the highest. Passing the eighth grade means acquiring
linguistic skills higher than the minimum levels required to study at
universities in China.
The 30 students include a former manager of an izakaya restaurant aiming
to get involved in the food business with China and a nurse driven to
study Chinese to better deal with an increasing number of Chinese
patients. As such, they are motivated for learning with their own clear
Naoki Tanaka, 20, was enrolled at Oberlin's Confucius Institution after
dropping out of a university where he majored in Chinese literature.
During his two hour train commute each way to and from the institution, he
focuses on listening practice.
"I couldn't find any meaning in the courses I took at my university," he
said. "However, I find that classes here have direct connections to my
Among other missions, Confucius Institutions aim at expanding the number
of those learning Chinese as a foreign language, which is now estimated to
be more than 30 million. To this end, Oberlin's Confucius Institution
offers events opened to the general public, such as a Chinese-language
exchange party, a speech contest and a karaoke competition.
China aims at eventually expanding the number of students of Chinese to
100 million. The spread of Confucius Institutions may also pose a
challenge to the status of English as the world's lingua franca.
University students earning British degrees without leaving China
NINGBO, Zhejiang--A half-hour flight south of Shanghai, there is a
British-style campus in this port city. The University of Nottingham
Ningbo, China (UNNC), which officially opened in September 2005, offers
courses in English identical to those available at its British campus.
Provost Peter Buttery, 63, is proud that his institution can offer
high-quality education to Chinese students, saying it is significant to
develop global-minded people in this rapidly developing country with its
presence growing in the international community.
UNNC was set up by the University of Nottingham, one of Britain's most
prestigious higher educational institutions, and Zhejiang Wanli University
in Zhejiang Province under a Chinese law stipulating the government's
policy regarding cooperation with foreign educational institutions. Put
into effect in 2003, the ordinance prohibits foreign institutions from
setting up schools of their own or offering compulsory-level education.
For the University of Nottingham, UNNC is its second overseas campus
following the opening of a campus in Malaysia. It has about 2,000
undergraduate and postgraduate students.
In their first year, all students have to go through intensive English
training and begin studying their respective specialized subjects from the
second year. On graduation, they are awarded a degree from Nottingham
Despite an annual tuition fee of 50,000 yuan (800,000 yen)--10 times the
average tuition fees for local counterparts--UNNC is attracting more and
more interest from Chinese students. Half of its new students last year
were from Zhejiang Province, with the other half from 14 provinces and
"I can acquire English-language skills, and I also found it attractive to
earn a British degree," said Xin Ying, 21, on why she chose UNNC. A major
in international business management, she often struggles with thick
"Because it offers the same curriculum as the main British campus, it's
hard [to keep up with the courses], but it's fulfilling," she added.
A British education available in China also attracts foreign students.
Indian Punit Yagnik, 22, currently living in China due to his father's
business, is a UNNC postgraduate student majoring in international
The Indian initially planned to study in Britain after graduating from the
University of Mumbai. However, he changed his mind because although he
could enjoy the same education and earn the same degree, studying in China
would cost just one fourth of the money required in Britain, he said.
For universities in the West, China is a huge market with 2.5 million
students. Institutions from Germany and France are also setting up
campuses in the same way as the University of Nottingham.
"In China, you are appreciated if you graduate from a prestigious Western
university," pointed out Hiroshi Fukunishi, 63, head of the Beijing office
of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. "Therefore, they are
likely successful when coming to China."
Fukunishi is concerned that Japanese higher educational institutions are
lagging behind the trend. "Western universities separate academic research
from management and have strategic views over their expansion," he said.
"However, there are no professionals in management at Japanese
(Sep. 20, 2007)
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