Confucius Institute, a Bridge Enhancing Mutual Understanding and Trust (Reporters’ Notes)

[Source]    People’s Daily [Time]    2018-05-21 15:07:37 

By the end of 2017, China had established 525 Confucius Institutes and 1,113 Confucius Classrooms in 146 countries and regions, all of which have played an indispensable role in strengthening educational and cultural exchanges and cooperation between China and relevant countries, and in enhancing mutual understanding and friendship between Chinese people and people of other countries.

Open Day activities held in the Confucius Institute at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro: To be smarter, learn to use chopsticks. Photo by Chen Xiaowei

Confucius Classroom has become an “advantage” in the enrollment competition

By Zheng Qi and Gao Shi, People’s Daily, America

Not long ago, principals of elementary and secondary schools in Maryland in US, together with students and their parents, gathered to celebrate the 13th anniversary of the establishment of the Confucius Institute at University of Maryland. Several political officials, such as Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S. Senator from Maryland, presented special certificates of recognition. At the scene, it was common to hear a myriad of stories of how learning Chinese had helped many to grasp a better understanding of China and improve themselves.

Barbara Mccartery, the coordinator from the Confucius Classroom at Garrison Forest School told the journalist, “My 7-year-old granddaughter has been learning Chinese since the age of four. She said all of us should learn Chinese, since we cannot gain deep insights into a country before understanding its language.”

According to Mccartery, the Confucius Classroom has become an “advantage” in the enrollment competition since many students choose Garrison Forrest School mainly for its Chinese language program. “The Confucius Classroom has achieved the best results in offering students with unique courses. We provide them with various options in language and culture teaching. For myself, I’ve also visited several Confucius Institutes in other universities or schools and found that they all have an open teaching style.”

Up till now, 110 Confucius Institutes and 501 Confucius Classrooms have been established in the United States. Of all students we came across, the majority is grateful to the Confucius Institutes and Classrooms for the great help in their Chinese learning.

Maxwell Holmes, a student of the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland, was much attracted by Chinese language after learning it for only six or seven weeks. “I believe that it is a good thing to set up such institution, which helps to enhance the mutual understanding between different cultures.”

It is said that in order to make the curriculum appeal to more students and improve the teaching results, all Confucius Institutes in US are exploring their own way of teaching. Apart from the language courses, different schools and universities, based on their own conditions, offer diversified traditional Chinese culture courses, including tea ceremony, calligraphy, painting, martial arts, dragon dance and lion dance.

On March 28th, 2018, several political officials, such as Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S. Senator from Maryland, presented a special certificate of recognition to the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland for its 30th anniversary. Donna Wiseman, Director of the Confucius Institute, receiving the certificate. Photo by Gao Shi

Rebecca McGinnis, coordinator of the Confucius Institute at University of Maryland, said that she attended the 12th Global Confucius Institute Conference held last December. At the meeting, all the participants had heated exchanges of their own practices in teaching Chinese. “Every school has their unique teaching approaches.”

Utah takes the lead in teaching Chinese across America. Howard A. Stephenson, Senator of Utah, has long been in support of integrating Chinese teaching into the local curriculum. As early as 11 years ago, he had put forward and facilitated the approval of relevant proposals. Stephenson said that, the primary reason for the Confucius Institutes to be widely welcomed by numerous institutions of higher education and school districts fall on the fact that they serve as a quality platform for American students to have access to Chinese language and culture. “In the State of Utah, similar educational institutions have been founded by such countries as France and Spain. We encourage the establishment of institutions for foreign language and culture learning, simply because we hope to try our utmost to help students have better educational experience.”

“Chinese, the Global Language in Future”

By Sun Guangyong, People’s Daily, Thailand

Bangkok in March, with its average temperature above 30°C, is baking hot. But that didn’t stop dozens of Thai officials at the Secretariat of National Assembly of Thailand to attend Chinese classes. Like the climate, officials were hot with enthusiasm and on March 17th, the ninth “Advanced Chinese Class for Government Officials” was formally held by Confucius Institute at Kasetsart University.

“I’m Somchai Wongsawat from the Ministry of Education. Chinese history became more fascinating after my visit to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. ” “I’m Sukunlaya Anuchitpailin from the Ministry of Education. I think the oriental culture is implicative and philosophical.” The topic of the first unit of the training class was “Encounter between East and West”. In the class, learners conducted group discussions where they have expressed themselves with Chinese vocabulary and language they had just learned.”

There were 30 people from different government offices attending the training class. In the first class, many learners expressed “their desire to go to China together to learn Chinese language and culture.”

An Qishan, head of the Thai training class and officer of the Secretariat of the Senate, told the reporter: “You are welcomed to the Chinese language classes in the Thai Parliament. Many parliamentarians learners are learning Chinese. They are very interested in Chinese and they learn with full attention.” The Chinese class An Qishan spoke of is the Chinese language training class for the National Legislative Council of Thailand launched in January 2018. It has attracted 20 parliamentarians. The project is jointly organized by the Secretariat of the Senate and the Confucius Institute at Kasetsart University. Under the context of China’s “the Belt and Road” initiative and Thailand’s active promotion of the “Thailand 4.0” economic model, the role of mutual visits between senior officials of the two countries in policy communication has become increasingly important. With the help of the training class, parliamentarians will be able to acquire Chinese expressions of greetings, hospitality, customs, politics and economics needed in high-level visits after dozens of hours of study.

“The use of Chinese by parliamentarians in exchanges and mutual visits will increase mutual understanding and communication between senior officials of the two countries and promote further cooperation between the two countries,” Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, Chairman of the National Legislative Assembly of Thailand, said at the opening ceremony at the Thai Parliament House. He also said that "With the increasing influence of China on the international stage, the status of Chinese language has become more and more important. Chinese will become the global language in the future."

Parliamentarians of the National Legislative Assembly of Thailand studying Chinese in the training class. Photo by Sun Guangyong

At present, over 3,000 schools in Thailand offer Chinese language courses with about 1 million active learners, making Chinese one of the most important foreign languages in Thailand. In terms of Chinese language teaching, Thailand is “firsts” in a number of aspects worldwide: the first country to have included Chinese in its national education system; the first country to have invited Chinese volunteer teachers to teach Chinese language in Thailand; and the first country to have incorporated basic Chinese textbooks published cooperatively by China and Thailand in the system and syllabus of its national textbook. Today, Thailand has the largest number of volunteers teaching Chinese. Not only to the Thai royal family, the government, but to the people, speaking Chinese has become an intellect booster.

"China, a country with a time-honored history and a splendid civilization, is playing an increasingly important role in the international arena and has attracted the world’s attention for the 'Chinese model' it created through the leap-forward development of its economy. As China's influence continues to grow, the status of Chinese is also becoming more and more important. In Thailand, there is a growing demand for learning Chinese, be you from the government or industries, tourism and other fields,” said Pornpetch.

“To Establish Confucius Institute at Our University, Our Long-cherished Wish”

People’s Daily reporters Ren Yan in Belgium

In the evening, it was very cold with the rain showing no sign of ending. In spite of such bad weather, the staircase of the University of Liège was busy with students. Some of them were local citizens, and some students from the school. There were even scholars from other places. Most of them had no time for dinner. They gathered for one single reason —— to hear an academic report on the social status of Asian women being held that night.

In the University of Liège, such reports are very common to see. Every month, the Confucius Institute will invite one or two well-known scholars to deliver academic reports on the socio-cultural and economic development of China and Asia. “Launching academic reports is a major feature of our Confucius Institute. Not long ago, we had also launched an academic report on the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Li Qian, Chinese director of the Confucius Institute in Liege.

According to Andreas Thele, Director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the University of Liège, the scholars invited by the Confucius Institute have high academic attainment and are authoritative in their fields. Their lectures are always benefiting. The academic platform created by the Confucius Institute has made great contributions to the communication between the cultures of China and the West."

“This Confucius Institute was established in 2006 and is co-organized by the University of Liège and Beijing Foreign Studies University.” Li Qian said that with the rapid development of China’s economy, its influence on the world stage has also expanded. The Walloon District Government of Belgium and University of Liège are aware of the need to learn more about China. So they offered to establish a Confucius Institute with Hanban, making the Confucius Institute a bridge connecting China and the region.

So far, there are six Confucius Institutes in Belgium, five of which are jointly organized by prestigious universities in Belgium and Chinese universities. In Brussels, the country’s capital, there are two universities adjacent to one another, the first being Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the other Université libre de Bruxelles. Several years ago, the two universities both wanted to establish a Confucius Institute. And finally, both successively did so.

Students of Confucius Institute in Liege writing calligraphy. Photo by Ren Yan

Jan Cornelis, Vice Rector of Internationalization Policy of Vrije Universiteit Brussel, said: “To establish a Confucius Institute at our university is our long-cherished wish. At other well-known universities in Europe, Confucius Institutes have become an important platform for cultural exchange between China and the West. So we also want such platform.”

“In many European countries, there are quite a few Confucius Institutes, which is a major achievement in the Europe-China cultural exchanges and cooperation spectrum, and it can also further promote Europe-China cultural exchanges and cooperation.” Shada Islam, Director of the European and Geopolitical Research Department of Friends of Europe, a leading EU Think Tank, stated that the Confucius Institute has built a broad platform for mutual learning between the two major civilizations of Europe and China. Since the world’s civilization is wonderful because of exchanges and the international relations develop because of dialogue, the Confucius Institute will further promote the mutual understanding and trust between people of Europe and China.

(People’s Daily, Page 23rd, May 16th, 2018)


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