A tour of Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes in the Amer­i­cas

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China Daily (Canada) - - SPECIAL -

Wise­man is par­tic­u­larly proud of the in­sti­tute’s abil­ity to pre­pare Chi­nese-lan­guage teach­ers at pub­lic schools, mainly at the el­e­men­tary and sec­ondary lev­els.

With funds from Han­ban four years ago, Wise­man was able to build a new aca­demic unit within her own Col­lege, called the Cen­ter for Chi­nese Teacher Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and De­vel­op­ment, which of­fers mas­ter’s de­grees and cer­tifi­cates to stu­dents who as­pire to be­come Chi­nese-lan­guage teach­ers.

The in­sti­tute also houses the largest HSK test­ing cen­ter in the US which pro­vides stan­dard­ized test­ing for pro­fi­ciency in Chi­nese. The In­sti­tute’s data showed that about 940 people from nearby states took the test in 2013 and about 600 people have at­tended this year so far.

Ac­cord­ing to Han­ban, last year only, 370,000 people world­wide at­tended the test in more than 800 test cen­ters, one-fifth of the to­tal num­ber of par­tic­i­pants since the test launched in 1990.

“The growth of Han­ban in 10 years is dra­matic. I do not know of any other govern­ment pro­grams of any other coun­tries that’s been so suc­cess­ful in 10 years. I think Han­ban and Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute have done more to im­prove the vis­i­bil­ity and pos­i­tive im­age of China than al­most any­thing else. It is huge,” said Wallce Loh, pres­i­dent of UMD.

And for Steven Knapp, pres­i­dent of Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity who also is a mem­ber of the Coun­cil of Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute Head­quar­ters, a com­bined gov­ern­ing body and ad­vi­sory board for Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes world­wide, CI’s suc­cess con­trib­utes to the well-be­ing of a big­ger cause.

“The re­la­tion­ship be­tween our two na­tions is the most im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ship for de­ter­min­ing the fu­ture of the world. To have cul­ture un­der­stand­ing and ex­change and people-to-people con­tact is very crit­i­cal to the fu­ture of the world and to the many chal­lenges that we have to ad­dress,” said Knapp whose univer­sity launched a CI last May. Chicago

Chicago is where the first part­ner­ship be­tween Han­ban and a US pub­lic-school district was formed.

Es­tab­lished in 2005 as a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the City of Chicago Pub­lic Schools (CPS) and Han­ban, the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute in Chicago has the largest Chi­nese-learn­ing pro­gram in the US — 63 full-time teach­ers of­fer­ing 13,000 el­e­men­tary and sec­ondary stu­dents Chi­nese and cul­tural classes in 43 schools.

Housed at the Wal­ter Pay­ton Col­lege Prepara­tory High School, the in­sti­tute also has a li­brary of more than 10,000 multimedia ma­te­ri­als for both K-12 teach­ers and stu­dents.

This year 24 stu­dents were selected across CPS for an up­com­ing trip to Hangzhou, China, for a four-week in­ten­sive Chi­ne­se­lan­guage im­mer­sion pro­gram un­der the “100,000 Strong Ini­tia­tive”.

The ini­tia­tive, an­nounced by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in Novem­ber 2009 dur­ing a visit to China, aims to im­prove bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween the US and China by send­ing more Amer­i­can stu­dents to study in China.

Wanx­i­ang Amer­ica, the largest Chi­nese com­pany in Chicago, has been con­tribut­ing to the ini­tia­tive and the CI in the city since 2012.

Ac­cord­ing to Wanx­i­ang Amer­ica, so far 150 US stu­dents have stud­ied in China un­der Wanx­i­ang’s fi­nan­cial sup­port. In the next two years, Wanx­i­ang plans to con­trib­ute $450,000 to help build 72 more stu­dents’ con­nec­tions with China.

The Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes and Class­rooms they vis­ited dur­ing this tour of the Amer­i­cas are just snap shots of a grand dis­play of more than 440 CIs and 650 CCs world­wide. It helps to show­case how broad and deep the ini­tia­tive has helped people get con­nected with China.

With the ris­ing of China to be­come the world’s sec­ond largest econ­omy, the de­sire and need among people to learn about the coun­try and its lan­guage have sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased over the past 10 years. China has a rich com­bi­na­tion of more than 5,000 years of civ­i­liza­tion and his­tory. How to ac­tively reach out to help the global com­mu­nity know more about it has be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant. In the mean­time, the whole oper­a­tion has to be well per­ceived by each con­ti­nent.

Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes have spread all over this planet. Even for Xu Lin, the ded­i­cated and tire­less stew­ard of CI, the 10-year achieve­ment is “be­yond ex­pec­ta­tion yet tan­gi­ble”. Dur­ing this trip, Xu said the suc­cess lies in “each stu­dent, each teacher, the Chi­nese side, and the for­eign part­ner side.” It is the syn­er­gized and joint ef­forts that have led to build this com­mon plat­form.

In re­view­ing the re­port cards of the past 10 years, Xu Lin could see count­less signs of suc­cess. Now she is map­ping the next 10 years for Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes. Con­tact the writ­ers at cindyliu@chi­nadai­lyusa.com, mayzhou@chi­nadai­lyusa.com, fanzhang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com, charlenecai@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com and changliu@chi­nadai-

CINDY LIU / CHINA DAILY

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