A new school of thought

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHAO XINY­ING

Mao Lei ar­rived at Xi­a­men Univer­sity Malaysia to teach Chi­nese his­tory in Fe­bru­ary last year. When asked about her ini­tial im­pres­sions of the new school, “de­serted” was the first word that came to mind.

“At the be­gin­ning, even the cab driver didn’t know where the cam­pus was or how to get there. It was not in­di­cated on my Google map, and there were very few peo­ple on the cam­pus,” said the as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of Chi­nese his­tory, who was one of the first batch of teach­ers dis­patched by Xi­a­men Univer­sity in China to work on the new cam­pus.

“Now, more lo­cal peo­ple know about the new in­stitu- tion, and with about 2,000 stu­dents on cam­pus, the aca­demic at­mos­phere is get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter,” she said.

Dur­ing her two decades at Xi­a­men Univer­sity in Fu­jian prov­ince, Mao has al­ways been keen to em­brace new op­por­tu­ni­ties; when the univer­sity set up new cam­puses in China, she was one of the first teach­ers to

vol­un­teer to work on them.

Mao has dis­cov­ered that teach­ing on the cam­pus in Malaysia is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from her ex­pe­ri­ences at home.

Un­like many of her cam­pus peers, she doesn’t have to lec­ture in English — Chi­nese stud­ies is one of just two pro­grams

taught in Man­darin at Xi­a­men Univer­sity Malaysia — but she un­der­stands that she needs to adapt and ad­just to en­sure she is bet­ter un­der­stood.

“The ma­jor­ity of stu­dents com­ing to my class are Malaysian. Un­like Chi­nese stu­dents who learned Chi­nese his­tory at high school, Malaysian stu­dents have com­par­a­tively less knowl­edge about the sub­ject. Although they have a deep in­ter­est, there are still times when they are con­fused by some def­i­ni­tions that Chi-

nese stu­dents find ba­sic,” she said.

For ex­am­ple, lec­tures about an­cient Chi­nese his­tory rely on knowl­edge of a num­ber of ge­o­graph­i­cal fac­tors, such as the North China Plain and the re­gions south of the Yangtze River. “These are ab­stract things to Malaysian stu­dents. Af­ter all, many of them have never been to China, so they can­not have a re­al­ity-based con­cept.”

In light of that, Mao now spends ex­tra time on class prepa­ra­tion, at­tempt­ing to com­bine her reg­u­lar lec­tures with more de­tailed ma­te­ri­als, such as back­ground his­tory, pho­tos and maps, to en­sure her tu­ition is ef­fec­tive.

So far, she has been pleased with the re­sults.

“What I didn’t ex­pect be­fore com­ing here is that the stu­dents would mas­ter Man­darin so well. They are al­ways pas­sion­ate about what they are learn­ing and make great ef­forts to study hard. I’m re­ally proud of them,” she said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.