Stu­dents fight for greater in­tegrity through spe­cial cour­ses

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COVER STORY - By TANG YUE and HE NA

As the leader of a group of stu­dents spe­cial­iz­ing in “in­tegrity and anti- cor­rup­tion” ed­u­ca­tion, Wang Lei has of­ten found him­self in a dilemma over the ris­ing num­ber of scan­dals in China’s uni­ver­si­ties.

“Peo­ple say that we ‘give medicine to the chil­dren while the adults are sick’ and ask why don’t we fight cor­rup­tion in the univer­sity, rather than ed­u­cat­ing stu­dents (about it),” said Wang, a post-grad­u­ate ma­jor­ing in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion at China Univer­sity of Min­ing and Tech­nol­ogy in Bei­jing.

“We are dis­ap­pointed by mis­con­duct be­cause we al­ways ex­pect teach­ers to have higher moral stan­dards than gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.”

Zhang Junyi, who heads a sim­i­lar group at Bei­hang Univer­sity in Bei­jing, shared Wang’s em­bar­rass­ment. “Many peo­ple say we should ed­u­cate those in power, not the stu­dents. But that’s be­yond our abil­ity. All we can do is help to fos­ter pro­bity in the minds of our fel­low stu­dents while they are still young and have dreams and faith,” he said.

With cor­rup­tion an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant is­sue in China, 104 re­search cen­ters into clean gov­er­nance have been es­tab­lished in uni­ver­si­ties, as well as more than 30 stu­dent groups on in­tegrity in ed­u­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to Ren Jian­ming, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Clean Gov­er­nance Re­search and In­tegrity Ed­u­ca­tion.

How­ever, this type of ed­u­ca­tion mainly teaches stu­dents to be­have them­selves when they as­sume power rather than learn­ing to be watch­dogs, some­thing that should play an im­por­tant role in good gov­er­nance.

“Ed­u­ca­tion is al­most of no help in pre­vent­ing cor­rup­tion among univer­sity lead­ers. Ide­ally, ev­ery teacher and stu­dent should be in­volved in the man­age­ment of the univer­sity, but un­der the cur­rent sys­tem they don’t re­ally have the rights to in­for­ma­tion and gov­er­nance,” said Ren, who be­lieves that in­tegrity ed­u­ca­tion is still of cru­cial im­por­tance and should be ex­panded na­tion­wide.

“To­day’s stu­dents will be the lead­ers in the fu­ture. When they learn more about good gov­er­nance, the rule of law, and democ­racy, there is a bet­ter chance that they will work in ac­cor­dance with that phi­los­o­phy in the fu­ture,” he said.

He Zengke, a se­nior re­searcher with the Cen­tral Com­pli­ca­tion and Trans­la­tion Bureau, said chang­ing the pre­vail­ing cul­ture in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor is of cru­cial im­por­tance, oth­er­wise the stu­dents will be­come in­ured to mis­con­duct dur­ing their col­lege years.

“The stu­dents are ex­pected to learn about jus­tice, au­ton­omy, com­pro­mise and co­op­er­a­tion on cam­pus. How­ever, in China the stu­dents’ union is not self-gov­ern­ing and cor­rupt prac­tices are also re­lated to pro­mo­tion in the union and in gain­ing schol­ar­ships,” he said.

In a re­search project into cor­rup­tion at Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties con­ducted last year, He found that the stu­dents are more tol­er­ant of cor­rupt be­hav­ior than their par­ents and teach­ers. “Cor­rup­tion also has in­ter­gen­er­a­tional trans­mis­sion,” he said.

Zhang was more op­ti­mistic. Last year, when his col­lege awarded a schol­ar­ship with­out an­nounc­ing the names of the suc­cess­ful stu­dents or the se­lec­tion cri­te­ria em­ployed, two of his class­mates ques­tioned the ad­min­is­tra­tors, who apol­o­gized.

“It didn’t change the re­sult, but at least they (the au­thor­i­ties) ad­mit­ted their mis­take and made the re­quired in­for­ma­tion pub­lic. There’s a grow­ing aware­ness of rights among my gen­er­a­tion, and that’s where progress will come from,” he said.

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