Facebook Twitter 新浪微博 google plus Instagram YouTube Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015

A Confucius Institute finds its way in US

By Han Shasha Chen Xingxing (People's Daily Online)    18:20, December 15, 2015
A Confucius Institute finds its way in US
Gary A. Ransdell, President of Western Kentucky University, introduces its Confucius Institute at a teacher training program in 2015. (People's Daily Online/Han Shasha)

According to the website of Hanban, 475 Confucius Institutes had been established around the globe by December 7th, 2014, with 100 in the US.

Compared with other Confucius Institutes in the US cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York, where live many people of Chinese origin, the one in Western Kentucky University really surprises us with its touchable and seeable success in two things: a mobile Chinese culture experiencing unit and a Chinese culture experiencing center.

The mobile Chinese culture experiencing unit is actually a retrofitted recreation vehicle, in which various Chinese items are displayed, such as costumes of Qing Dynasty, paper-cuts, four treasures of the study (brush pen, ink-stick, paper and ink-stone), traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, musical instruments and so on.

Martin Cohron, 60 years old, have driven this vehicle to more than 200 places and presented the Chinese culture to over 30,000 students, teachers and people from local communities. He said that he is proud of his job. He tries to pick up every item and introduce the culture elements to the visitors.

The Chinese culture experiencing center has been set up at the entrance of the university library, where 7 digital touch-screen monitors are installed to introduce various aspects of China, such as technologies in ancient China, Chinese characters, ancient Chinese scholars, paper-cuts, musical instruments, martial arts and other exhibitions. Wei-Ping Pan, the dean of the institute said that the center welcomes an average of 15,000 people each year. He also mentioned that this idea is from Gary A. Ransdell, President of Western Kentucky University.

Mr. Ransdell said that, for the over 20,000 students at WKU, not everyone has a chance to visit China. However, during their four years' study at WKU, they all have to go to the library. "Every time when students go to the library, they need to walk past the Chinese culture experiencing center."

Theoretically, a Confucius Institute could be more successful in an area with more Chinese, however, according to statistics from the US Census Bureau, the total population of Kentucky was 4.413 million in 2014, with the total white population accounting for 88.3% and Asians only taking up 1.4%.

Bowling Green, where WKU is located, barely live any Chinese, or Chinese Americans. But it's in this American city, that the Confucius Institute gains its popularity and wins people's heart.

When the Confucius Institute at WKU was established in 2010, there were only 11 Chinese language teachers teaching in 7 schools in 4 school districts. Currently, the Confucius Institute has 47 Chinese language teachers teaching in 21 schools with 13,580 registered students.

All these numbers lead to one question: Why?

President Ransdell thinks that the Confucius Institute coincides with WKU’s goal of internationalization. “If the students don’t have the opportunity to study abroad, we will bring the outside world to them. We create opportunities for them to experience internationalization,” he said.

President Ransdell believes that China is playing a more significant role in the international arena with its rising economy. Chinese will become a world language in the future, and knowing and understanding China will bring more opportunities for the students and increase their competency.

Alfonso de Torres Nunez, World Languages Consultant for the Kentucky Department of Education, said that in Kentucky, Chinese has become the second most important foreign language for students following Spanish.

Mr. Ransdell added that in Bowling Green, since there is not profound Chinese culture and influence, everything about China is new. "This is just the value of the Confucius Institute. Because the Chinese history and culture are not that popular, a promising development can be expected for the Confucius Institute. "

How can the Confucius Institute keep its momentum?

In Mr. Pan's eyes, the answer is localization and vitality. One big issue facing all the Confucius Institute is the shortage of teachers. For Hanban teachers, only when they obtain teacher qualification certificates accredited by local authorities in the US can they teach like other US teachers. Without such a certificate, they cannot teach on their own and have to be accompanied by teachers with the required certificates. For US schools which are short of teaching resources and lack of funds, it's hard to make it.

Through cooperation with WKU's College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB), the Confucius Institute at WKU offers a platform for Chinese language teachers to apply for qualification certificates. To date, a total of 51 teachers have obtained Kentucky Chinese language teacher certificates. The Confucius Institute at WKU is also the only Confucius Institute which could offer certification for Chinese language teachers from China.

Mr. Pan said, "Thanks to this, we have enough teachers. At present, various school districts request us to send Chinese language teachers to their schools and all the services will be charged."

Now, the institute sets a new goal, aims for 45,000 registered student in 2025.


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Zhang Yuan,Bianji)

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