Address: 129 Deshengmenwai Street,
Xicheng District, Beijing, China
The Confucius Institute is a non-profit public institution in affiliation with the People’s Republic of China Ministry of Education. Its aim is not only to promote the Chinese language and culture, but also to support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.
The Confucius Institute program was founded in 2004 and is officially overseen by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban). As China’s economy and exchanges with the world have experienced rapid growth, the demand for the global demand for learning of Chinese has risen sharply.
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By 2014, there was more that 480 CIs across the globe and Hanban’s aim is to establish more that 1,000 CIs by 2020. Borrowing the idea from France, the UK, Spain and Germany’s experience of promoting their national languages, China launched its exploration through the establishment of the Confucius Institutes.
It was named after the renowned Chinese Philosopher Confucius, a figure in history universally recognised and associated with Chinese culture.
The Confucius Institute adopts a flexible teaching approach. It adapts to suit the local conditions not only when teaching the Chinese language, but also when promoting culture in foreign secondary and primary schools, as well as within enterprises and communities.
The Confucius Institute’s primary purpose is to promote and teach Chinese language and culture around the world. CIs develop Chinese language courses, hold the Chinese proficiency test (HSK Examination), train the teachers and also provide information about contemporary China. Xi Lin, Director of the CI program, stated that the Confucius Institutes were established to cater for the sudden growing interest of the Chinese language throughout the world. Mainland China provides most of the Chinese language teaching staff at the institute.
Many foreign scholars also believe that the Confucius Institute program also has other non-academic goals such as a political ploy whereby China is using it as an exercise in soft power to expand its cultural, diplomatic and economic reach through the promotion of the Chinese culture and language. Some even suggest that China uses CIs to aid it in its intelligence gathering activities.
Functions of the Confucius Institutes
- Creating developmental plans and also setting down establishment and evaluation criterion for CIs.
- Examining, approving and establishing CIs
- Examining and approving annual budgets, financial statements and project proposals of CIs worldwide.
- Guiding and Evaluating the teaching activities and also controlling the quality of the operations of the CIs.
- Providing the CIs all over the world with the requisite support and the services of teaching resources.
- Selecting and dispatching Chinese directors and teaching staff to the CIs so as to offer training programs for the teachers and management teams of the CIs.
- Organising annual CI conferences.
Organization – Hanban
The Confucius Institute Headquarters/ Hanban is, as a public institution with affiliations with PRC’s Ministry of Education, the Institute, committed to providing Chinese cultural and language teaching resources and services, globally. Hanban goes all the way out in meeting the demands of international Chinese learners and also contributes to the development of multiculturalism, as well as the building of a world that is harmonious.
A 15-member council governs Hanban with ten directors of the overseas institutes. In partnership with the top universities, the Chinese Government funds the CIs and also has a hands-off approach regarding management. The CIs work independently but within the guidelines established by the CI Headquarters and Hanban. As much as each institute draws and manages its budget, the headquarters has to approve it.
Functions of Hanban
- Making developmental plans and policies necessary for the promotion of the Chinese language internationally.
- Supporting Chinese language programs of various types and levels at educational institutions in other countries.
- Drafting international teaching standards, promoting and developing Chinese language materials.
The Confucius Institutes curriculum rotates around CI’s role as a language centre. CIs teach simplified Chinese Characters that are standard in Mainland China, and not the traditional Chinese characters used in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Confucius Institute Online
www.chinesecio.com also falls under the auspices of Hanban/ Confucius Institute Headquarters, and it’s a large scale Chinese education website that provides online learning and teaching, real-time interaction and also learning evaluation services for the global Chinese language learners. At the moment CI online has established a Chinese teaching system which is based on self-learning, real-time instructing and interaction. They have developed a smart database and a search engine, which focuses on Chinese education courseware, aided teaching resources and a question bank.
CI Online has about 4000 online Chinese teachers, 87 corporate organisations and 250 thousand online lessons that provide rich learning resources for the Chinese language learners across the world. CI uses the internet to disseminate Chinese teachings and culture to meet the needs of the people learning Chinese worldwide as well as promoting their understanding of Chinese culture and language.
The Confucius Institute has had their share of controversy within their short time frame of rapid expansion. Mostly, the criticism emanates from practical concerns about academic viability, finances, relations with Chinese partner universities, legal issues and also ideological concerns, regarding improper influence over research and teaching, surveillance of Chinese abroad, undermining Taiwanese influence and industrial and military espionage.
Another challenge the institute has had to face is organised opposition during the establishment of CIs at the University of Chicago, University of Melbourne, Stockholm University, University of Manitoba and others. Some universities, which hosted the CIs, such as the University of Hohnhein, Pennsylvania State University, Canada’s McMaster University, terminated their contracts. A few of them cited that it was questionable to have another institute financed by another country, while others suggested that they didn’t feel autonomous enough and felt that they were being forced into submission.
There are so many activities that are organised by the Confucius Institutes – in and out of the institute. They range from symposiums, for instance, the First ‘Spread China to the World’ Symposium which took place in New York in January. Also, there are cultural exchanges, for instance, the Chinese-Russian bilingual edition of Flight of Soul, as well as a plethora of collaborative projects. CI also sponsors academic activities, Chinese cultural events, and Chinese competitions. For sports, the student’s can engage in what the host universities provide. These institutes are also quite instrumental in making available reference materials – not only educators but also for other professionals. They also advise people who wish to do business, study or even travel in China.