Peking University's plan stirs questions

By He Dan (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-26 07:30
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BEIJING - Peking University, one of China's most prestigious universities, plans to roll out a controversial program in May that arranges consultations for "troublesome students", including those with "radical thoughts".

The program would concern 10 categories of students, including those who have a poor academic performance, are addicted to the Internet, come from poor families, have a severe disease, or have radical thoughts, according to a notice on the university's website.

The focus is mainly on students who frequently fail exams or encounter difficulties in their studies, Zha Jing, deputy director of the university's student work department, told the Beijing Evening News.

"We try to discover the reasons for students' poor academic performance in order to help them successfully complete their courses," Zha said.

Zha explained that students who are critical of the university's management belong to what is defined under the policy as students with "radical thoughts".

"For instance, some students criticized the university just because the food price in the canteen was raised by 2 jiao (3 cents)," Zha told the Beijing Evening News.

A trial of the program began in November and is nearing its end at the university's Yuanpei College and Health Science Center.

About 10 students from Yuanpei College have been enrolled in the consultations, the Beijing Evening News reported on Thursday.

If the trail is found to have worked smoothly, the program is expected to be adopted by the whole university in May.

The policy has stirred heated public debate.

"No universities or schools have the right to deprive students of the freedom to think or speak," said Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the Beijing-based 21st Century Education Research Institute.

"The university is somewhere to cultivate people's independent personalities and thinking, so it's totally wrong for Peking University to intervene in students' freedom to express their different opinions," Xiong said.

A freshman surnamed Yang who majors in corporate management at the university told China Daily that he had doubts about the effect of the consultation program.

"I don't believe you can actually improve a student's academic performance or change someone's personality by talking," Yang said.

However, Sun Dianjianyi, a first-year graduate student at the university's Health Science Center, welcomed the new policy.

"Students should enjoy complete freedom in academics, but their daily behavior cannot go against basic standards," the 24-year-old said.

Sun also said that some of the undergraduates born in 1990s are too self-centered.

"It's a good way to help them become emotionally mature and teach them how to get along with classmates and later fit into society."

Wang Qingyun contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 03/26/2011 page3)