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Learning to be a perfect lady proves fruitful (2)

(China Daily)

09:51, May 31, 2013

Sara Jane Ho (2nd from left), founder of China's first school of etiquette, teaches her students how to eat an orange. Photo by Wu Hailang for China Daily


The 27-year-old Harvard Business School graduate opened her school after attending a two-month intensive course at Institut Villa Pierrefeu, the last of Switzerland's traditional finishing schools.

While Ho conceded that finishing schools are on the decline in the West, she insisted that many leading families around the world still pay attention to teaching their children etiquette.

"They send their children to Switzerland or similar schools in the UK or the United States for the same reason that the Chinese are now studying etiquette - they understand that the world we live in is very global and that these international bonds will only become more complex."

Ho's school provides six courses on social etiquette and protocol, including dress sense, table manners and business etiquette.

Her students, who range from those marrying into wealthy families to successful businesswomen, learn etiquette through repeated practice in luxury five-star hotels.

"Today's modern woman is the first to take on the roles of wife, mother, daughter and businesswoman in this new, drastically changing world," she said. "What my students find most significant from studying is guidance on how to behave, a frame of reference. Finishing school gives women greater self-confidence and assurance. It is empowering."

Wei Qingqi, a professor at Jinling College in Nanjing, which was founded in 1915 and was the first Chinese university to award bachelor's degrees to women, said that the courses offered by finishing schools may promote a superficial outlook, but they can also endow women with more feminine traits.

"But women's willingness to highlight their femininity may reflect the impact of the social stereotypes placed on them," said Wei.

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