China committed to helping improve education in other developing nations
Editor's Note: Why is China helping other countries with investments and loans, and through other forms of financial assistance? The obvious answer is to help them develop their economies and improve local people's livelihoods. But there is another, perhaps more important reason behind that, as a senior journalist with China Daily explains in the second of a series of commentaries.
The University of International Business and Economics campus opposite China Daily has been my favorite place for after-dinner walk. As a regular on the campus, I've seen how the number of foreign students has increased over the past three decades－symbolizing China's cooperation with other countries.
In the early years, the university was almost devoid of foreign students. But soon foreign faces began becoming increasingly visible on the campus. Talking with them, I learned they had come from the United States, European countries, Japan and the Republic of Korea to attend short-term Chinese language courses during vacations. A few years ago, the number of overseas students, including many postgraduate students, suddenly boomed.
The university now has about 16,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, more than 15 percent of them foreigners. The majority of the overseas students are from developing countries, with quite a few supported by the Chinese government's scholarships. To better meet the needs of the increasing number of foreign students, the university has built an "international college" and a huge complex for their accommodation.
The overseas students seem to enjoy the campus life－they join their local counterparts for classes, organize food festivals, peddle their belongings in the flea market, show off their street dancing skills in the squares, and discuss many an issue over a bottle of beer in the eateries on the campus.
Official data show about 500,000 overseas students are studying in 1,000 Chinese universities, with about 80,000 of them enrolled in universities in Beijing.
While most of the overseas students pay for their studies, the Chinese government has mechanisms in place to ensure scholarships are available to those from developing countries.
Believing that all countries are equal members of the global community with a shared future, China has been helping other developing countries to boost economic development. Thanks to its development experience, China has realized that of all the factors essential to development, nurturing talents through education is perhaps the most important.
When China launched reform and opening-up more than four decades ago, the annual number of university enrolment was only about 300,000. Decades of efforts to promote education have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of enrolments－last year about 9 million students were admitted to universities with nearly half of them studying engineering. That China became the "factory of the world" can be attributed mainly to the huge numbers of engineers and skilled workers in the country.
These facts prompted China to adjust its approach to global cooperation about 10 years ago. It increased investment and intensified efforts to help other developing countries to nurture more talents in line with the Chinese saying: you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
While government scholarships have been drawing more overseas students to China, NGOs and companies should also lend a hand in strengthening global cooperation on education. For instance, China Daily has been organizing journalism courses for mid-career journalists from developing countries by inviting them to Beijing or Shanghai to attend special classes and study how the media organization works.
Many more training programs have been organized in developing countries so that more youths could benefit from them. Between 2013 and 2018, China held more than 7,000 training sessions for foreign officials and technical personnel and educators, which were attended by about 200,000 people.
China has been helping other developing countries to improve their education sector so they could cultivate more talents. It has helped build many primary and secondary schools in many countries in Asia, Africa and South America, equipping them with all necessary facilities, including in compiling and printing customized textbooks on different subjects in South Sudan, and partnered local universities to build libraries and research centers. And by doing so, it has helped millions of youngsters to pursue their dreams.
China remains committed to making more efforts to improve education in other developing countries.
The author is former deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily.