The opening of the Confucius Institute at the University of Minnesota, creates the question: What is the Confucius Institute?
The development of Confucius Institutes is a program of Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International. According to the Hanban Web site, the purpose of the program is “promote friendly relationship[s] with other countries and enhancing the understanding of the Chinese language and culture among world Chinese learners as well as providing good learning conditions for them.”
The “Confucius Institute” was named after Chinese philosopher Confucius to show “the longevity and profundity of Chinese language and culture.” Institute headquarters is in Beijing.
Branches of the Confucius Institute will offer the following components of Chinese language education:
1. Multimedia and web-based Chinese teaching
2. Professional training for university, secondary and elementary school Chinese teachers
3. HSK (Chinese proficiency) tests and examination for certificate of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language 4. All types of Chinese programs (corporate program, preparation course for study in China, pre-examination training for HSK and other Chinese tests) and a course of Chinese for special purposes (translation, tourism, business, finance or Traditional Chinese Medicine)
5. Chinese degree courses integrated with those in Chinese universities and institutes
6. Helping formulate Chinese teaching curriculum or teaching plan
7. Promoting Chinese teaching materials and recommending Chinese teachers
8. Co-developing practical Chinese teaching materials tailored for local regions
9. Academic activities and Chinese competition;
10. Showcasing Chinese movies and TV programs;
11. Consulting service about study in China
12. Library service for reference
The Hanban Web site explains that “[e]ach branch will follow in their teaching and evaluation work a unified set of quality certification system and standard for teaching, testing and training. The Confucius Institute mainly offers training of Chinese for special purposes for the public and professional training for Chinese teachers. All these trainings fall into the category of non-degree education. The teaching focus […] is applied Chinese.” At this time, the growth of the program is mainly through partnerships with foreign institutes; however it can be built with direct investment from headquarters.
Headquarters will assist universities “in setting up on-campus Chinese centers to support degree programs like Chinese language major and Chinese as a public course as well as research centers to fuel research work in the field of China studies. Based on certain needs and conditions, these Chinese centers can also undertake teaching and promotion activities outside the university.”
Regarding eligibility requirements for partner institutions, Hanban states that “[h]igher learning institutes and other organizations with a purpose of promoting Chinese teaching and cultural exchange can offer to establish partnership with the headquarter (NOCFL) in jointly setting up the Confucius Institute.” Hanban also offers the following prerequisites potential partners should meet:
1. Accept operational guidance from the Headquarter and follow relevant teaching standard
2. Have experiences in language teaching or educational and cultural exchanges
3. Familiar with the development of Chinese teaching in the country and region 4. Have an independent legal person qualification
5. Enjoy strong economic and managing abilities, can provide input in real estate, finance and resources for establishing the Confucius Institute
Partner institutions can expect other support from the Confucius Institute headquarters such as supplying multimedia course materials, information about Chinese language education around the world, and operational management assistance.
The Hanban Web site at http://english.hanban.edu.cn has more information about the Confucius Institute program.