Working Together Towards the Sustainable Development of Confucius Institutes

[Source]    Division of Communication [Time]    2010-12-11 18:13:34 

Madam Liu Yandong, Member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Chinese State Councilor and Chair of the Council of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, delivered a speech at the opening ceremony of the conference.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and friends,

Good evening!

I take great pleasure to be here with you in this family reunion of the world Confucius Institutes to celebrate the opening of the 5th Confucius Institute conference in this dazzling evening. On behalf of the Chinese government and the Chinese people, I would like to extend my warmest welcome and sincere greetings to all of you, friends from all over the world.

In this past year, with the unprecedented enthusiasm and unwavering support from the governments and people of all the relevant countries, and with the concerted, innovative, and pioneering efforts by both the Chinese and international colleagues, Confucius Institutes around the globe have made remarkable achievements. First and foremost, we have witnessed the momentum of stable growth. This year, about 40 Confucius Institutes and 97 Confucius Classrooms have been newly established. So far a total of 322 Confucius Institutes and 369 Confucius Classrooms have been put in place in 96 countries and regions. The total number of registered students has increased by 56% over the previous year, amounting up to 360,000 in total. The Confucius Institute Online has opened channels in 9 languages, with 100,000 registered users. Such efforts have greatly facilitated people from the host countries to learn Chinese. Secondly, we have ensured higher quality of teachers. The total number of teachers, part-time and full-time alike, has reached 4,000, with a net increase of 1,000 this year. Among them, half are from China, and half from the local countries. About 3,000 people have participated in the training programs organized by the Confucius Institute Headquarters. Moreover, the Headquarters has provided 2,000 scholarships for Confucius Institutes to train local teachers. All these endeavors have enhanced the performance of directors and teachers. Thirdly, we have made new progress in the development of teaching materials. About 9 collections of Chinese language teaching materials and reference books in 45 languages have been published and more than 400,000 books have been donated to Confucius Institutes. Currently, about 104 Confucius Institutes have developed and published 77 local Chinese language teaching materials, thus greatly alleviating the pressure of textbook shortage. We have provided training on the use of teaching materials in China to 2,500 primary and secondary school teachers from abroad, boosting Chinese language instruction in the host countries. Fourthly, there emerges a new surge of brand name events. This year, about 300 university presidents and 2000 Confucius Institute directors and teachers have been invited to visit the Shanghai World Expo to get a first-hand feel about the harmonious coexistence of the multiculturalism in the world. Some presidents from Asia also visited the Guangzhou Asian Games. During the "Chinese Language Year" in Russia and Spain, Confucius Institutes in these two countries played a major role by staging more than 600 events, attracting more than 300,000 participants. Performance, textbook exhibition and cultural lecture tours have been taken place in more than 300 Confucius Institutes in over 50 countries, further tapping into the cultural functioning of Confucius Institutes, and enhancing their influences in the local communities. Last but not least, our efforts have resulted in more exchanges and cooperation. Robust exchange programs have been carried out amongst Confucius Institutes. Supported by the government and communities of the host countries, for instance, Nanyang Technology University in Singapore, Auckland University of New Zealand, University of Saint Thomas in Chile, London Southbank University in United Kingdom, University of Yaounde II in Cameroon and Novosibirsk State University of Technology in Russia have successfully held 6 regional Confucius Institute joint conferences for Asia, Oceania, Ibero-American countries, Europe, Africa, East-Europe and Central Asia, respectively. The College Board and Asia Society of US successfully convened the National Chinese Language Conference. All these events mentioned above have promoted the information-sharing and exchange of experience among Confucius Institutes and other Chinese language teaching institutions, enabling them to learn from each other with mutual improvement.

Such afore-mentioned achievements would have been impossible without the steady endeavor of all the representatives present, the concerted efforts of all the Chinese and host universities, and the support from the governments and the people in all the host countries. Here I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all of you, your colleagues and friends whose efforts are indispensable to the great accomplishments in the sustainable development of Confucius Institutes around the globe.

Ladies and gentlemen, and friends,

The Confucius Institute has gone through an extraordinary journey in the past five years, having attained remarkable achievements. Now we are at a brand new starting point. Looking into the future, we need to seize the opportunities, think carefully and make strategic planning for the sustainable development of Confucius Institutes.

First of all, the exchanges and dialogues between civilizations and their harmonious coexistence have inspired us to undertake a new mission for Confucius Institutes down the road. Today's world is in an era of great development, profound changes and radical transformations, with in-depth development of the world multi-polarization, economic globalization and stronger trends of peace, development and cooperation. Meanwhile, we also feel the profound impact from the international financial crisis and, more prominently, from the global challenges such as the climate change, food security, energy and resource security, public health threats, and major natural disasters. As a member of the "global village", no country can stand immune or deal with the challenges alone. To tackle such common challenges, all countries need to stay together and work closely for a harmonious world and push for dialogues, exchanges and tolerance between and among civilizations. Mutual learning and exchanges of languages and cultures are important ways to enhance the communication and understanding among nations in order to build a harmonious world featuring sustained peace and common prosperity. Confucius Institutes are committed to the global Chinese language education, to meeting the demands of people around the world to learn Chinese, and to the exchange of languages across cultures between China and other countries. Needless to day, Confucius Institutes have a unique and glorious role to play.

Secondly, the continued, intensified, and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and other countries has provided new opportunities for Confucius Institutes. At present, China is undergoing an unprecedented process of urbanization and industrialization in terms of scale and range, with new strides constantly made in the modernization drive. But we are keenly aware that China still remains the largest developing country in the world and there is an arduous task ahead before the goals of modernization are reached. The Chinese government is now drafting the national economic and social development plan for the next five years. China will adhere to the theme of sustainable development by accelerating scientific and technological innovation, ensuring and improving people's living standards, promoting social fairness and justice, enabling its people to enjoy the benefit of economic growth and ensuring the quality and rapid development of the economic society. The Chinese people know that the destiny of modern China is interdependent on the development of the world. China's development cannot be isolated from the world's development and vice versa. China will stick to the path of peaceful development and adopt the opening-door strategy for mutual-benefit in a win-win situation. Apart from its endeavor to promote political mutual-trust, economic and trade cooperation between countries, the Chinese government has renewed its efforts to strengthen people-to-people communication. As an important platform for such communication to occur, Confucius Institutes will lay a solid foundation for more intensified collaborations and cooperation between China and other countries.

Thirdly, the expanded educational endeavors and international exchanges between China and other countries will further strengthen the development of Confucius Institutes. In its drive for modernization, the Chinese government always prioritizes education in its agenda. This July, China held the inaugural Conference on National Education in the new century and issued the educational reform and development plan outline for the next ten years. The Outline highlights in particular that educational opening-up should be expanded and schools at all levels are encouraged to conduct international exchanges and cooperation and improve Education for International Understanding (EIU), so as to increase faculty's and students' understanding of other countries and their cultures, and make China's education more internationalized. The Chinese government encourages citizens to learn languages of other countries and now the vast majority of Chinese schools, from primary schools to universities, have opened courses of up to 56 languages, among which 200 million people are learning English. China will send more students to study abroad. By the end of 2012, about 25,000 students will be sponsored by the government to study abroad, doubling the number of this year. The Chinese government will also increase the number of government-granted scholarships and accommodate more international students to study in China. China will support world-renowned foreign universities and educational institutions to carry out cooperation programs in China and encourage more foreign experts, scholars and academic teams to teach and work in China. The Confucius Institute is an important window for educational opening-up and international exchange. The educational plan outline clearly states that support will be given to international Chinese language education and improving the operation and performance of Confucius Institutes. As always China will support the development of Confucius Institutes and international Chinese language education and ensure their growth and prosperity amongst educational exchanges and cooperation between China and other countries.

In general, as the largest developing country and an emerging economy, China is ready to and has remained open-minded, guided by the concept of scientific development, being pragmatic and proactive, to strengthen communication and exchanges with other countries and enhance understanding and friendship among one another. We hope to give full play to the unique role of Confucius Institutes in people-to-people communication. Through the exchange and integration among different cultures, civilizations in the world can understand and tolerate each other to the benefit of the people of the world at large, as well as world peace and human development.

Ladies and gentlemen, and friends,

With the support from people of all the relevant countries and the benefits from multiculturlism, Confucius Institutes have grown strongly since their inception, providing convenience for people around the world to learn Chinese and understand the Chinese culture in their home countries. Facing the new situation and opportunities, we still need to adhere to the principle that Confucius Institutes are jointly built, owned, managed and shared by both the Chinese and host institutions. We need to join hands, seize the momentum, and make concerted efforts to strengthen the sustainable development of Confucius Institutes.

First, Confucius Institutes should strive for innovation, integrate themselves into the local communities, and serve as the bridge and bond for the enhanced international exchanges and friendship among different peoples. The exchange of languages and cultures, by essence, is fundamental, extensive, and durable. In line with different national situations, diversified cultural backgrounds and multifaceted demands of Chinese language learning in different countries, Confucius Institutes are expected to adapt to the local situations, mingle with the local particularities, and strive for their own unique styles. They need to respect and embody cultural diversities, approach learners and better cater to their actual needs. Confucius Institutes need to better adapt themselves to the local social life and exert more influence. Confucius Institutes should be oriented to all the population groups of different social status, remain close to the general public, reach out to the local communities and establish good connections with the local people. Confucius Institutes should attract elite talents of all countries in conducting research on international understanding and cross-cultural exchanges. We need to continue our efforts to run Confucius Institute Online and service Chinese language instruction to a greater extent.

Second, Confucius Institutes should focus on quality control, do the basics right and improve their performance. The capacity building focusing on teachers, teaching materials and teaching methodology is the pillar for better operation and functioning of Confucius Institutes. The work to tackle issues related to teachers, teaching materials and teaching methodology should follow the principles of language instruction, keep in line with the current trend in today's international language education and cater to various demands of different group of learners. The localization of teachers is the direction to build a sustainable teaching force. We hope to expand the range of "Confucius Institute Scholarship" to train local teachers on the one hand, and send more teachers and volunteers from China on the other, so that we can create a pipeline for qualified directors and teachers who are both bilingual and bicultural in the shortest time span as possible. The textbook development provides major support for international Chinese language education. The Confucius Institute Headquarters will mobilize resources from home and abroad and take forceful measures to ensure that all countries that offer Chinese language courses are equipped with suitable Chinese textbooks. As such, Confucius Institutes and educational institutions in all countries are encouraged to compile their local teaching materials. The scientific teaching methodology serves as the basis for quality improvement. We need to identify and accumulate the best practices among Confucius Institutes and create innovative teaching methods to stimulate students' interest and make Chinese language instruction more attractive and appealing.

Thirdly, Confucius Institutes should enhance their capability, improve the service and diversify the operation mode. Language is the carrier of culture. Confucius Institutes are unique because of their humanitarian elements and capability to play an active role in language instruction and cultural exchanges. In the past few years, starting with enlightenment and dissemination, Confucius Institutes have provided convenience for people of different countries and brought the Chinese language to all corners of the world. In the near future, while doing a good job in language instruction, Confucius Institutes should strengthen cultural exchanges and interactions by offering consultations on the cooperation of economy, trade and science and technology, thus creating more room for development. We will support Confucius Institutes in organizing cultural events and continue our efforts on brand name events such as art performances, textbook exhibitions and cultural lectures. We will approach the local communities with Chinese traditional medicine, Kongfu, Qigong, calligraphy, Chinese painting, Chinese songs and dances as well as Chinese cuisine to increase the general public's interest in China and understanding of what China is today. We will utilize multi-channels and media such as economic and trade exchange, international conferences, inter-business cooperation and tourism to promote international Chinese language education so that Confucius Institutes will reach the next level of excellence in performance, and marching towards a more promising future.

Fourth, we need to remain supportive and create synergies in providing assurance for the sustainable development of Confucius Institutes. As we know, the financial support is crucial to the operation and growth of Confucius Institutes. I would like to reiterate that we will adhere to the principle of 50:50 cost share between China and host institutions, and give preferential treatment to Confucius Institutes in some developing countries if necessary. We need to establish the assessment mechanism featuring international cooperation and better manage the fund to increase its efficiency and effectiveness. The cooperation between Chinese and foreign institutions is an essence in establishing and developing Confucius Institutes. In the equal-footed cooperation, universities from both sides have learnt from each other, increased their brand visibility and reached a win-win situation. Chinese universities should prioritize their support to Confucius Institutes and make long-term arrangements in selecting directors and teachers and in defining the cooperation mechanism. We hope the host universities continue to work closely with their Chinese partners, honor the cooperative commitments and give more support with regard to staffing, venue and facility provision, and fund allocation. Teachers and volunteers from China are dispatched to work on a foreign land with the spirit of friendship and volunteerism. We hope host universities will give them more care, tolerance and assistance so that they can adapt themselves to the new surroundings as quickly as possible. Broad participation from other social sectors can generate new dynamism for the development of Confucius Institutes. The model of Confucius Institutes is nowhere to be found in the existing language organizations of other countries. Instead, apart from working together with schools, Confucius Institutes work closely with governments, business sectors, communities, and organizations. We need to further expand the resources to Confucius Institutes from other social sectors and improve the mechanism of business sponsorship and social donation so as to mobilize resources of all sorts for the sustainable development of Confucius Institutes.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

As an old Chinese saying goes: "Bosom friends know no distance, and neighbors remain regardless of thousands of miles". The exchange of languages and cultures lies in the hearts of human beings. Running Confucius Institutes well is a noble act that will not only benefit today's people, but also generations down the road. The cause of international Chinese language education is bigger than ourselves. I am convinced that, through our concerted efforts, Confucius Institutes will enjoy a brighter and more prosperous future!

The New Year is just around the corner. We are in for the 2011 in just about 20 days. I would like to take this opportunity to give my best wishes to every friend present here, and also through you to all the directors, teachers and students from the 322 Confucius Institutes in 96 countries and regions. I wish you all good health, the best of luck and a very Happy New Year! Thank you all!