Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Join our hands to develop the Confucius Institutes

By Liu Yandong (China Daily) Updated: 2013-12-12 08:16

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

Before the conference was opened, the Council of Confucius Institute Headquarters had a very productive two hour meeting. Chinese and international members of the Council commended the work in the past year and the plan for next year. They also unanimously approved the theme for this year's conference and the topics for the concurrent sessions. They hold the view that this year's conference is different from the previous ones in that it highlights successful case studies and experience sharing with a sharp focus on teaching quality. I believe the conference will be a resounding success with your participation, serving as an important milestone as Confucius Institutes embrace a new era of development. Next I would like to make a few observations regarding the year in front of us:

1. Strengthen Chinese language teaching and enlarge coverage. The mission of Confucius Institutes is first and foremost to meet the needs of foreigners interested in learning Chinese language. The scope of Chinese language teaching must be scaled up with attention to quality assurance. Special effort must be made to train and develop head teachers. Support needs to be given to more foreign universities so that they can launch new academic majors to recruit local students as future Chinese language teachers. Production of effective teaching materials needs to step up, and great support should be given to Confucius Institutes to develop their own localized textbooks that are informative, engaging and adaptable. Modern information technologies such as web based techniques and digital media must be leveraged to lead the way in innovative teaching methodologies. In the last two years, MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) has become a global trend. Many education specialists believe we are in for a revolution as it has the potential to make premium education resources universally accessible, multiply the output of teaching faculty and engage the interest of learners. Confucius Institutes must seize the opportunity presented by MOOC as a way to deliver higher quality and more accessible Chinese language teaching to a wider range of potential learners.

2.Strive for greater sophistication in people-to-people exchanges. As China becomes increasingly visible on the international scene, there is growing desire throughout the world to see China in an authentic and unbiased way. The Confucius Institute as the platform of diverse cultural exchanges has unique advantages in presenting China as what it really is. Confucius China Studies Program will continue to run to recruit young scholars to come to China to study towards doctorial degrees in social sciences and humanities. "Understanding China" Fellowship and "Young Leaders" Fellowship will be offered to fund research and study tours to China. Support will be given to Confucius Institutes and their host universities to encourage the translation and publication of works on Chinese culture, and to a number of research oriented Confucius Institutes to engage in academically rigorous Chinese studies. Confucius Institutes are also expected to facilitate the transfer of cultural achievements from foreign countries to China and recommend talents, technologies and management expertise for China to consider and adopt as part of two way exchange to promote the cultural inclusiveness and diversity.

I want to share a story with you. In April last year, I attended the unveiling ceremony of the Confucius Institute at the University of Ulster in the UK.

The Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Jonathan Bell made a request. His wife's great grandfather Joseph Hunter came to Yingkou, China with his wife in the spring of 1869. Mrs. Hunter died from a disease the next year. But Mr. Hunter continued to practice and teach medicine in northeastern China for as long as 15 years before he passed away in Shanghai. Mr. Bell wondered whether China could assist him in the search of the records of Mr. Hunter's life and work in China and the location of Mrs. Hunter's burial place. I instructed Hanban to follow up on his request. Hanban worked together with Shenyang Normal University and Dalian University of Foreign Languages for this assignment. It took a

dedicated search team more than six months to find the location of Mr. Hunter's clinic and residence in Yingkou. But unfortunately the tomb of Mrs. Hunter has not been located yet. Mr. Bell as a Chairman of the Board of the Confucius Institute at the University of Ulster is here at this conference. What this story shows is that Confucius Institutes and the exchanges they have made indeed can create miracles where strangers are connected and hearts are joined.

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