By Shikha Pandey/Asst.Professor of Chinese, University of Mumbai
China, which is celebrating 40 years of opening up and reforms, now offers enormous opportunities for the rest of the world to explore the new China through various platforms and across various fields.
Achieving diversity has been China’s primary focus in its bid to emerge as a superpower. The rapid development of China has captured the attention of the world. It is not just the multinational corporations, enterprising entrepreneurs and ace professionals from other nations who want to head to China. Youth from all over the world are doing so. They see China as a destination in academics and research in an amazing number of fields.
During the time of Chairman Mao, education became a primary policy objective. He triggered an educational revolution. Mao said: “ Education must serve proletarian politics and can be combined with productive labor…Our education policy must enable everyone who receives an education to develop morally, intellectually, and physically and become a worker with both socialist consciousness and culture.”
Within 40 years, China has shown impressive progress in building strong educational platforms and is welcoming students from all over the world to avail of quality education at affordable rates.
Chinese universities rank among some of the top universities of the world. Peking University and Tsinghua University are now preferred universities have posed a tough competition to other top universities in the US, Europe and Australia.
Chinese universities rank among the world’s best
In the QS World University Rankings 2019, Chinese universities are ranked among the top 50 universities of the world. Tsinghua University is at the 17 th place, The University of Hong Kong at the 25 th place, Peking University is at the 30 th place, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is at the 37 th place, Fudan University is at the 44 th place and The Chinese University of Hong Kong is at the 49 th place.
Within the space of a decade, the population of international students has risen remarkably in China. With their top rankings, impressive infrastructure and scholarship opportunities, Chinese universities figure among popular choices of international students.
There is increased collaboration between China and other nations thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This has provided interesting benefits to students from nations linked with BRI.
Students from these countries can easily avail scholarships to pursue higher education in China. Apart from the BRI links and collaborations, other full-time scholarships offered by the Chinese government and Confucius Institute Scholarships are also a big draw.
Scholarships are offered by the governments of every province of China. In addition, individual universities also provide partly funded scholarships. International students who make the most of such diverse scholarships options are mostly from South-East Asia and Africa. These scholarships are mostly given to students to study Mandarin. Students often opt for the one-year language study program, or the Bachelors or Masters Degree program.
There is tough competition within the community of international students in China to secure these scholarships. The scholarships come with certain criteria and fit international standards so that the most deserving students are chosen.
Key role played by Confucius Institutes
The Office of Chinese Language Council International, known as Hanban, has played a key role in promoting Chinese language and culture worldwide. It has supported local Chinese teaching internationally and has facilitated cultural exchanges. Hanban established the first Confucius Institute in 2004 in Korea, and is now engaged globally. There are now more than 530 Confucius Institutes established in more than 140 countries in collaboration with local universities. Both local and Chinese teachers are engaged in teaching Chinese.
The initiatives taken by Hanban have strengthened the roots of Chinese language globally. These initiatives have also created immense opportunities for the students, especially those coming from a poor financial background. These students can pursue higher education in China by winning the Confucius Institute Scholarship to study Bachelor’s or Masters’s Teaching Chinese to the Students of Other Languages (BTCSOL/MTCSOL). Even Ph.D. studies are now supported under the Confucius Institute Scholarship scheme.
However, all Confucius Institutes have not been able to sustain the same level of services and long-lasting tie-ups. Recently, Confucius Institutes were shut down in several states of the US and Canada. They are facing criticism regarding teaching quality. It is claimed that the teaching content is fixed to language and culture and that there is no academic freedom.
Problems at Confucius Institute in Mumbai University
India has faced difficulty in receiving a Chinese Director and teachers on campus as per the agreement between Hanban and the local university. This is due to working visa restrictions imposed on Chinese nationals in India. Such impediments have impacted mutual tie-ups and academic programs.
The Confucius Institute at Mumbai University is facing turbulence since it was established in 2013. The institute is providing part-time Chinese language courses, and scholarship and winter/summer camps in China.
But lack of teaching faculties and adequate infrastructure to accommodate students have led to severe challenges and new concerns.
It is essential for Confucius Institutes to properly research the country prior to setting up its base. It is important to have a complete understanding of the local academic needs and requirements and also the visa-related rules and regulations of the host country. If this homework is done, Hanban and also the Confucius Institutes \ can avoid operational challenges later.
The bigger picture, nevertheless, is positive. Courtesy the sustained efforts of Hanban, Chinese scholarships have gained worldwide popularity. Foreign students are taking full advantage of it, getting enrolled in China’s top universities. Through Chinese language studies they get access to quality education.
Resentment among local Chinese students
It is often challenging for local Chinese students to secure seats in top universities. Admission is often decided by the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), commonly known as Gaokao. This is one of the most difficult exams taken by the students in China. The excruciating high standards of Gaokao have raised concern for the Chinese government.
Locals have started criticizing the government for “favoring” foreign students. Locals feel that the government is spending more on foreign students.
After China, India is the second highest populated nation in the world. Indian students who want to study abroad mainly opt the US or UK for higher education.. But in the last few years, Indian students have developed an interest to undertake higher education in China, particularly in the field of engineering and medicine. A news report published by the Times of India in January 2018 stated that in 2016, China received around 18,171 Indian students, compared to 18,015 by the UK.
The highest percentage of Indian students in China are those who are pursuing medicine. Studying in China is more cost-effective for Indian students as compared to the US or UK. Moreover, they don’t have to undergo difficult entrance exams such as NEET (National Medical Entrance Exam in India) to get into a top-ranking medical college.
The increasing number of Indian students reveals that China is now a popular educational destination to pursue a degree in medicine. The medium is English, and China’s medical degrees are recognized by the Medical Council of India (MCI).
Along with China’s booming economic growth and growing business tie-ups with India, the demand for learning Chinese Mandarin has also increased gradually in India. More Indian students are keen to pursue a major in Chinese language. Many are choosing to go to China. Most of these students opt for either the one-year advance level course or a Masters degree in Chinese studies.
This option is gaining ground among Indian students because it is giving them an international-standard platform. They are also able to witness China’s growth and development at very close quarters. Many Indian students say that China’s lifestyle and open society give them the freedom to explore life.
Indian society is still conservative. With the advancement in technology and better facilities, many students prefer to work and live in China after their graduation. China’s progress has been dazzling. It has a positive impact on students who go there to study. This also leads to a greater understanding of China among Indians, as compared to those who have never been to China.
Positive impact on India-China ties
More such educational tie-ups are necessary to develop better people-to-people contact between India and China. They will help the people of both countries achieve greater mutual understanding and strengthen relationships.
When China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited India in 2018, he put forth a proposal to strengthen Sino-India educational tie-ups. Setting up more Confucius Institutes in India was one of his top objectives. It will be good if the governments on both sides work to enhance ties in the education sector. This way, Indian students will be able to avail better platforms to explore more options in higher education.
Quality Education For Masses
Along with establishing world-class universities, China has ensured quality education for its masses. This is a remarkable achievement for China. It has lifted millions of its people from illiteracy, and has challenged developed nations to provide better services to their own citizens.
Education has always been one of the top priorities for China. Education has become a powerful tool for China to conquer and overcome social barriers and connect to the outer world.
India, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, was a center of higher education in ancient times. India gave world great universities like Nalanda and Takshashila in recorded history. These universities attracted scholars and students from far-off places like China, Greece and Persia. Nalanda and Takshashila had the same status in the field of education globally, as those that top the international rankings today. They were destroyed by Islamic invaders and Islamic rulers in India.
Modern India has developed some high-standard educational platforms such as IITs, IIMs, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Visva Bharati etc. Indian students are regarded as among the brainiest and most hard-working. They have the potential to excel on international educational platforms. It is a matter of concern that very few Indian educational institutes feature among the top 200 universities of the world.
Modern China has used to uplift and strengthen its economic and social structure. A significant number of the world’s top-ranked universities are now in China. China’s sustained efforts in the field of primary and higher education are yielding an impressive result.
Globally, Indians as well as the Chinese are amongst the best in the fields of science and technology, medicine, arts, literature etc. Both countries have a large population and a strong economy. Both have the potential to emerge as the future superpower. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that both India and China are struggling with challenges such as population explosion, unemployment, poverty etc.
Communication between the people of India and China is not very strong due to the language barrier, low awareness and knowledge about each other’s culture and society, and misconceptions fed by the media.
This has resulted in misunderstandings and bred negative impressions on both sides. Such misunderstanding and negativity are good neither for China nor for India. This is not the right way forward for India and China, two of the oldest civilizations of the world, to come forward and build a collective success story.
India and China must help each other to resolve the challenges that they face. Greater and stronger mutual collaboration will help both countries. Educational ties are a great area to achieve synergy. When the youth of India and China explore more about each other’s society and culture, the right awareness and information will be shared across the borders.
Bollywood movies have gained huge popularity in China. They have created an impact on Chinese society. Bollywood is India’s soft power. It is helping China see India – know about us, our culture. But in order to create a huge impact, it is important to have mutual collaborations on a wide scale.
The youth of any nation are the best channels to propagate bilateral cultural and social understanding. Sino- Indian relationship will prosper when both nations encourage mutual collaborations, especially in the field of education. Higher education will help the youth of both nations to collaborate in technology and science to build a better world for tomorrow. It will also enable them to understand each other’s culture and society.
This is needed to strengthen brotherhood, develop mutual understanding and care, and bring peace and harmony across borders as well as in the world.