《CHINA DAILY》The Xi'an Fanyi College welcomes honoured guests from afar[05.04.09]
College welcomes honoured guests from afar
Lu Hongyan and Hua Shangbao
XI'AN: The in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province has blazed a trail for China's private education, said foreign diplomats during a recent visit to the college.
On March 11, an unexpected snow fell in Xi'an, bringing great pleasure to the 40,000 students at Xi'an Translators College, for according to centuries-old Chinese tradition, white snow in spring was a harbinger of good luck.
It was a lucky day indeed for the students as four diplomats from the United States, Chile, Afghanistan and Romania visited their college and said that the college had set a new standard for China's private higher education.
Ding Zuyi, president and founder of the college, made a brief introduction about the college's development to the diplomats.
He said the construction of the college in Xi'an, capital of 13 feudal dynasties in Chinese history, started in 1985.
It opened its door to students two years later with the approval of the Shaanxi Provincial Education Bureau.
Starting from scratch, the college has now developed into a large-scale higher learning institution covering an area of 147 hectares and has trained more than 60,000 students.
The college has been deemed by China's authoritative rating organizations as one of the top 10 private higher education institutions in the country.
Ding ascribes the success of the college to its unique vision for private higher education.
He said the original motive of the college was to offer opportunities to senior middle school graduates who failed to enter State-owned colleges and universities, so that they could continue their schooling.
In the late 1980s, competition in the entrance examination for universities and colleges was cut-throat.
About 2 million senior high school graduates failed it each year.
These students wanted to find an alternative to continue their education, which they believed would be the best way to develop a career. Thus the college was founded.
Ding said his idea of setting up such a college was related to his early experiences.
He was an excellent student when he studied at a high school in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, some 40 years ago.
Despite his academic prowess, he was rejected by universities and colleges because he was deemed a "rightist?when he was 18 years old.
"Later I became a teacher after years of self-study. As a teacher, my sympathy always went out to those who failed to enter universities for different reasons,?Ding said.
However, he said, catering to students who have missed other opportunities does not necessarily imply that the college has lowered its standards.
The college has raised standards for recruiting students in recent years and higher entrance examination marks are now required.
At present, about 20 per cent of students who pass the admission process set by State-owned universities are still rejected by these universities for various reasons.
"They are actually very good students and are my college's top choices,?Ding said.
He compared these students to water heated from 70 to 80 C. "What we need to do is to add some firewood to make them boil,?he said.
When talking about education quality, Ding said what makes him proud of is that the college has pioneered an innovative and strict educational style which consists of full-time schooling and semi-military management.
It seems a little bit outdated in an age of openness. However, Ding said that the discipline is desirable to students?parents because it brings them hope that it will enable their children to better focus on their studies.
Also, many of the college's graduates have expressed that this discipline helps them better adapt to the strict requirements of their employers.
Impressed with Ding's introduction to the college, Darrell Jenks, director of the American Centre for Educational Exchange of the US Embassy in China, said he had been involved in educational exchanges for many years, and that he was attracted to Xi'an Translators College because it was a very good private institution of higher learning.
He said famous institutions of higher learning in the United States are mainly private rather than public.
Private institutions account for 60 per cent of the total in the United States.
His parents are educators in private universities, and he felt comfortable being in such a private institution, he said.
He said that he had heard of the college and its president Ding Zuyi many times in both Beijing and the United States, and that he was impressed with its achievements over the past 18 years ?some 60,000 students have graduated from it and more than 1,000 of them are working overseas. Every institution of higher learning in the world would be proud of its achievements, he said.
The Xi'an Translators College has established co-operative ties with higher learning institutions in California.
Jenks hoped that the college would establish ties with more institutions in the United States.
As an official in charge of educational exchange, he would do his best to promote co-operation between China and the United States in the field, he said.
Rai Barlas, the Afghan Ambassador to China, came to China for the first time in 1963. He became a teacher in his home country upon graduation from Peking University three years later until 1986. He became an ambassador after his retirement.
Barlas said he was deeply impressed with the vigour of the Xi'an Translators College, which could not be found elsewhere.
China and Afghanistan are friendly neighbours and can do a better job in bilateral exchanges. In such a large institution of higher learning as the Xi'an Translators College, there should be more Afghan students, he said.
Thanks to him, the Xi'an Translators College signed an agreement with relevant institutions in charge of education in Afghanistan to send students to both sides.
Ding said that Afghanistan was on the frontline of the "war against terror.?Xi'an Translators College can provide a certain amount of scholarship for students from Afghanistan, he said.
Catalina Nicolae, the first secretary and cultural counsellor of the Romanian Embassy in China, said she was happy to be able to be at Xi'an Translators College and be so close to its students.
She told a story which took place 15 years ago.
In 1990, she purchased a photo album in Bucharest, the capital of Romania.
It had pictures of the terracotta soldiers discovered in Xi'an from the mausoleum of Qinshihuang ?the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC).
She was fascinated with the pictures and dreamed of looking at the terracotta warriors herself one day.
She did not imagine that her dream would come true so soon, and that she could see such a beautiful institution of higher learning as Xi'an Translators College in the habitat of the terracotta soldiers.
As an official in charge of educational exchanges in the Romanian Embassy in China, she said she was proud of participating in education exchanges between China and Romania. Personally, she loved China and hoped that students at Xi'an Translators College loved Romania.
She said that the college was one of the best private higher learning institutions in China she had ever seen, and that she would help build a bridge for the college to establish co-operative ties with any school in Romania.
While talking with students in the college, the diplomats were amazed at their mastery of the English language.
Nicolae said that their English was so fluent that it was better than that of some students in Europe.
Ever since its founding, the Xi'an Translators College has attracted nearly 100 diplomats. Marvelled by its enterprising spirit, many have hailed its dream of becoming the "Harvard University of the East.?
Like the diplomats, presidents of many famous universities have visited the college and have been impressed with its potential.
Soon after the college's founding, the president of a famous American university offered three full scholarships each with a value of US$44,000 to its students.
In 2002, presidents and professors of 23 universities in the United States and the United Kingdom visited the college and signed 23 co-operative agreements with it.
(HK Edition 04/09/2005 page3)