Confucius Institute at University of Helsinki Builds a Bridge for Cultural Exchanges between Finland and China

[Source]    Confucius Institute at University of Helsinki [Time]    2017-12-05 18:19:43 

2017 marks the tenth anniversary of the Confucius Institute at the University of Helsinki (UH). From its modest beginnings to the all-round development after ten years, the Confucius Institute at UH has explored its own development path. It has now become the largest center of Chinese course, Chinese proficiency test, Chinese teachers training, Chinese cultural communication and Chinese academic research in Finland.

Chinese Courses Incorporated into Foreign Language Curriculum of UH

Founded in 1640, the UH is the largest and oldest comprehensive research university in Finland, as well as a prestigious institution of higher education in Europe, and a top-100 university in the world.

It has been a tradition for Finns, who have their own mother tongue, to learn foreign languages to communicate with other countries in the world. Like most of the European universities, the UH boasts an independent language course center with more than 10,000 students enrolled every year, and the university spends nearly 10 million euro a year on foreign language teaching.

The language center at the UH provides not only traditional European languages such as English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, etc., but also some “minority languages” including Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Estonian and Arabic. With an increasing number of students hoping to learn “minority languages”, especially Chinese, the elementary Chinese courses the center used to provide can no longer meet the needs of these students.

The Confucius Institute at UH signing a cooperation agreement with the language center

In May, the Confucius Institute at UH signed a cooperation agreement with the language center, indicating that the Chinese courses from the Confucius Institute would be fully integrated into the new curriculum and credit system of the UH for the first time in history.

After being formally incorporated into the curriculum system, the independent Chinese courses have entered the unified registration system of the university and are now open to all UH students. Students in other colleges and universities can also carry out elective learning and credit conversion through relevant agreements. In this autumn, the number of registrations grew dramatically, and as a result, new classes had to be added to meet the needs of the extra students.

A large number of students in Chinese class

Moreover, the Confucius Institute also provides academic courses for various bachelor and master degree programs in the UH. For instance, many Chinese courses are now included in China Studies Module of the Master’s Program in Regional and Cultural Studies of UH and has been presented as formal MA credit courses. This module is also open to students of the Bachelor’s Programs in Cultural Studies and other programs.

In the past, UH and the Confucius Institute operate independently; but now, they work hand in hand. In the future, the Confucius Institute will play a role in a bigger stage, and eventually become the most sizable and professional Chinese language teaching center in Finland.

Chinese Courses Brought into Finnish Primary Schools

In the fall of 2016, Chinese was first listed in the foreign language syllabus of high schools by the Finnish National Board of Education. In recent years, more and more primary and secondary school principals have taken the initiative to contact Confucius Institute, hoping to get the help in Chinese teaching.

This is a brand-new challenge for the Confucius Institute at UH which has only been focusing on Chinese teaching at colleges and universities all these years. Many problems such as how to provide appropriate courses to primary and secondary students, how to choose competent teachers and suitable textbooks and how to effectively cooperate with those new schools under the current education system, all need to be considered and tackled to expand Chinese teaching in Finland.

In February, the Confucius Institute at UH visited many local primary and secondary schools, holding Chinese culture experience activities to bring the model classes and culture workshops to the students. Later in May, 40 pupils came to the Confucius Institute to experience Chinese painting and calligraphy arts, so as to gain a better and closer understanding of the charm of Chinese language.

Finnish pupils experiencing Chinese painting and calligraphy arts

In September, 2017, after a series of communication and promotion activities such as model classes, the Confucius Institute at UH started to send Chinese teaching assistants to a primary school named Auroran koulu in Espoo, the second largest city in Finland. This primary school is currently the only school offering Chinese courses in Espoo. Every week, the Confucius Institute sends a teaching assistant to the school to help its local Chinese teachers with Chinese teaching, providing courses to the students in the third and fourth grade.

Chinese courses entering a local primary school in Finland

It is a ground-breaking action for the Confucius Institute to set teaching sites in a local primary school. In addition, it is the first regular cooperation program between the Confucius Institute and local primary and secondary schools.

Ulriika Huima, Principal of Auroran koulu, believed that Chinese language is now gradually gaining its significance in Finland. With the help of the Confucius Institute, the school is confident that an increasing number of students will be attracted to learn Chinese at Auroran koulu in the future. It is hoped that more class hours of such Chinese lessons could be added next year.

Wang Hong, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute at UH said that, with the increasingly close people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Finland, more and more Finnish primary and secondary schools would put Chinese into their curriculum in the following year. Under this circumstance, the Confucius Institute has always been paying attention to the latest educational policy and its future trend, and is willing to provide high quality teaching support for the development of Chinese teaching in primary and secondary schools in Finland.

Postdoctoral Fellows of Confucius China Studies Program Sent to China

Obert Hodzi from Africa is a postdoctoral fellow in UH, as well as a member of China study team of the Confucius Institute at UH. For him, who had already been to Africa, Europe and Asia for studying, the best way to study China is to visit this country in person.

Obert Hodzi (right) visiting the Confucius Institute Headquarters

On September 7th, 2017, Obert Hodzi set out for Renmin University of China for a four-week visiting scholar project of Confucius China Studies Program, in which he would study China-Africa relations under the guidance of the prominent Professor Jin Canrong. Hodzi is the first applicant who succeeded in applying the scholarship of this project, and the approval of his application by the Confucius Institute at UH indicated the first breakthrough of this program in Finland.

After his academic visit, Hodzi said that the Confucius China Studies Program made it possible for him to exchange directly with scholars in China’s top-class universities, and the vivid academic atmosphere there really impressed him.

“During my visit, I chatted with Chinese elders in restaurants and took photos with visitors from all over the world. What’s more, I met Americans who, attracted by the China Dream, came to Beijing for career opportunities; I met African diplomats who came to China for advanced experience in national development; and I met Chinese scholars who wanted to build better connections with foreign scholars like me... There is no doubt that, in the present China, you can feel the whole world,” said Hodzi.

Apart from expanding the Confucius China Studies Program, the Confucius Institute at UH also placed the positioning of an “academic institute” into its daily work. In recent years, the Confucius Institute has invited world-renowned scholars in China studies to give lectures in Finland every month. The international academic meetings are held every semester and the yearly celebrations of Confucius Institute Day were also academia-centered, which has gained some awareness among the local academic circles.

In 2017, UH put the Confucius Institute in its Strategic Plan 2017-2020 of Internalization, which was considered as one of the major forces to increase the influence of UH in the world.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Foreign Director of the Confucius Institute at UH, said during an interview with People's Daily, “The political, economic and social development of China is all of great significance to Finland, Europe, and even the whole world. Hence, as the only Confucius Institute in Finland, we would not only persist in Chinese teaching, but also put emphasis on China studies, so as to help more Finns attain a better understanding of China.”

Opening Tailor-made Chinese Courses for Finnish Entrepreneurs

Many Chinese companies now choose to make investment in Finland, and at the same time, Finnish companies are trying to march into Chinese market. Some of the Finnish businessmen would choose to study language courses at the Confucius Institute, and others would want tailor-made Chinese courses.

This idea about tailor-made Chinese courses was initiated by Peter Vesterbacka, a famous Finnish entrepreneur known as the father of Angry Birds. The Confucius Institute at UH has been in touch with him and preparing for practical moves since last year.

Peter Vesterbacka (left) discussing about opening Chinese courses with teachers from the Confucius Institute

On April 24th, 2017, the Confucius Institute set up Chinese courses for local entrepreneurs on WE+ Co-working Space in Helsinki and more than 20 Finnish businessmen attended the course. This was the first time that the Confucius Institute at UH entered local business community to provide such courses.

Then, more Finnish companies expressed their intentions to cooperate with the Confucius Institute, hoping to have their own tailor-made Chinese courses.

AuroraXplorer, a Finnish travel agency that focuses on Chinese tourists, signed a long-term teaching agreement with the Confucius Institute at UH in September, 2017. Since then, the Confucius Institute will provide both primary and advanced Chinese courses to its Finnish employees once a week.

AuroraXplorer CEO Kirsi Mantua-Kommonen (left) learning Chinese

The founder and CEO of AuroraXplorer Kirsi Mantua-Kommonen said, “Chinese is now becoming a language with increasing importance in the world. In order to deal with Chinese customers, it is necessary for us to learn their language and culture. I’m glad that the Confucius Institute can offer us such tailor-made courses, and I hope one day I could give a speech in Chinese.”

The tenth anniversary of the Confucius Institute at University of Helsinki is full of rapid and high-quality development: breakthroughs have been made in multiple fields such as educational institutions of all levels, local communities, language, academia, culture, business etc. In the future, the Confucius Institute will firmly continue to build the bridge for cultural exchanges between Finland and China.


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