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Oct. 17, 2013 Volume 35, No. 9

Confucius Institute bringing China to campus and Columbia

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Photo courtesy of MIZZOU magazine.

The University of Missouri continues to broaden its students’ understanding of China through MU’s Confucius Institute. Columbia public schools and Chinese businesses are also benefiting.

This year, institute employees categorized 1,000 books donated to Ellis Library from the Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing. Over summer, the institute organized instruction about China for a handful of Columbia public school teachers to help them better understand the Asian country when teaching  world history and Chinese language courses.

Founded in 2011, the MU Confucius Institute is one of 87 in America connected with the Confucius Institute headquarters, which is funded by the Chinese Ministry of Education. 

The MU institute’s goals are to teach and open a dialogue on Chinese language and culture, foster business relationships between China and Missouri, and offer student exchanges between MU and its educational partner Shanghai Normal University.

The 1,000 books were recently made available at Ellis Library to the MU community. 

“If I just put them in my office, people can’t come in to see them,” said Wen Ouyang, co-director of the MU Confucius Institute. “We wanted those books to motivate people to learn.”

The books are written in English, Chinese or both — with pages of mirror text in both languages — covering the subjects of language, history, literature, art and other topics. Some are picture books that document life in China.

Columbia currently has four middle schools offering Chinese courses to students, Ouyang said. To beef up training, the MU institute taught many of the teachers basic Chinese. In June 2013, the participating Columbia public school teachers studied for five weeks in a Chinese immersion program at Shanghai Normal University. Upon returning, the teachers were paired up with a native Chinese-speaking MU professor to further the teacher’s language teaching skills and knowledge of China.

“And this can progress in the future,” said Handy Williamson, vice provost for international programs. 

“Next year, we’ll expand with a larger group of teachers who will undergo the training experience. So over a period of time, the school system would be populated with teachers who can teach the language and culture.”

Meanwhile, other programs at the institute reach out to Chinese business owners in Missouri. “Our Confucius Institute is intended to be a service on a state-wide basis,” Williamson said. “We reach out to communities, businesses and government agencies to facilitate the interface between Missouri and China.”

— JeongAn Choi