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A Classic Education
A Classic Education
UPDATED: September 19, 2010 NO. 38 SEPTEMBER 23, 2010
A Century of Exploration

PICTURESQUE CAMPUS: The three photos show corners of Peking University in the 1920s (FILE PHOTOS)

The DOCLL seems to be the department with the largest number of foreign students in Peking University. How are they taught and trained?

The DOCLL started to recruit foreign students beginning in the 1940s. In the 1950s, most foreign students were from the former Soviet Union, Czech, Poland, Romania, Viet Nam and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and most were funded by government scholarships and studied for a bachelor's degree. They took compulsory courses in the first two years and started to select courses according to their needs from the third year. The education for these students was elite education, which equipped them with proficiency in Chinese and high research capacities. Most of them became sinologists or diplomats.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the enrollment of foreign students has rose steadily and most of them came from developed countries, such as Japan, South Korea, the United States and EU countries. The students are mainly self-funded.

LANGUAGE FANS: Wen Rumin (center), a professor of Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Peking University, with his students in 2009 (COURTESY OF DOCLL)

The DOCLL received around 30 foreign students on average annually. Foreign students used to study in the same classes with Chinese students. Since the beginning of the 1990s, they have studied in separate classes and used curriculums designed for them. Courses for foreign students are easier. For example, their literature history course contains more contents on analyzing famous works and less "history" contents. Different from Chinese students, foreign students have some special compulsory courses, such as Chinese writing, Chinese calligraphy and Chinese culture.

The DOCLL conducted another round of reform of foreign students' curriculum in 2004 by cutting off some research-based courses and increasing practical courses on learning Chinese; emphasizing the learning of oral Chinese and Chinese writing; adding new courses on Chinese history and economic and political situations. The goal of teaching foreign students has switched from producing sinologists or scholars to producing fluent speakers of Chinese.

As for students studying for a master's degree or a doctor's degree, we received more than 10 foreign students on average annually in the late 1990s. But the number has been shrinking in recent years. They are trained the same way as Chinese students.

The DOCLL also receives short-term foreign students and visiting scholars, whose total number surpasses that of its bachelor's degree students. Since the late 1980s, the DOCLL receives 60 short-term foreign students and visiting scholars on average every year. These students are mainly freshman or sophomore students from Japan and South Korea who study in the DOCLL for one semester or two months. They have tailor-designed curriculum, whose major part is the learning of basic Chinese.

Visiting scholars are mainly professors from foreign universities, many of whom are famous sinologists and bring their research topics with them. They teach some courses at the DOCLL and devote a lot of time to communicating with other professors. The most well-known sinologists in the world have almost all once been visiting scholars at the DOCLL, making the department a platform for international academic exchange.

We have also organized Chinese learning camps for foreign students during summer and winter vacations. The students mainly come from Japan, South Korea and the United States. They are usually brought to China by a university in their own country in a group between 20 and 60 students and pay all the expenses themselves. Their one-month courses usually include lessons on basic Chinese and Chinese culture and a tour to other places of China.

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