China setting up first university campuses abroad

Updated 20 June 2013
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China setting up first university campuses abroad

In the capital of tropical Laos, two dozen students who see their future in trade ties with neighboring China spent their school year attending Mandarin classes in a no-frills, rented room. It’s the start of China’s first, and almost certainly not its last, university campus abroad.
“There are a lot of companies in Laos that are from China,” said 19-year-old Palamy Siphandone. She said she chose the Soochow University branch campus after hearing it would offer scholarships to students with high scores.
“If I can speak Chinese, I get more opportunities to work with them,” she said in a telephone interview during a trip to the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou — the home city of Soochow University.
Education officials in China are promoting the notion of the country’s universities expanding overseas, tapping new education markets while extending the influence of the rising economic power.
China so far has been on the receiving end of the globalization of education, with Western institutions rushing to China to set up shop. Now it’s stepping out.
In addition to the emerging Laos campus, there are plans for what may become one of the world’s largest overseas branch campuses in Malaysia and an agreement by a Chinese university to explore a joint campus with a British university in London.
“The Chinese government and its universities have been very ambitious in the reform and internationalization of Chinese higher education,” said Mary Gallagher, director of the Center of Chinese Studies at University of Michigan.
“This is partly about increasing China’s soft power, increasing the number of people who study the Chinese language and are knowledgeable about China from the Chinese perspective.”
Chinese universities historically have offered language lessons in foreign countries but usually to serve the overseas Chinese population. In recent years, the Chinese government has set up Confucius Institutes around the globe to promote Chinese culture and language.
But full-fledged campuses that can confer degrees are a new experiment. China’s Education Ministry declined The Associated Press’ request for an interview on the issue, saying the effort was too nascent to discuss yet.
The Laos branch of Soochow University, based in Vientiane, is now looking to raise money for a full-fledged campus of 5,000 students, university official Chen Mei said.
“The national policy wants us to go out, as the internationalization of education comes with the globalization of economy,” she said.
The Lao campus started as part of an economic development zone between Laos and Chinese governments, then continued after the larger project fell through.
China’s Xiamen University, based in eastern Fujian province, announced plans early this year to open a branch in Malaysia by 2015 and have annual enrollment of 10,000 by 2020. In May, China’s Zhejiang University and Imperial College London signed an agreement to explore options for a joint campus, though the scope and funding are still to be spelled out.
Philip G. Altbach, an expert on international higher education at Boston College, warns that Chinese universities might be venturing out too soon.

“I think that China’s top universities have sufficient work to do at home that they do not need to expand into the risky and often expensive world of branch campuses outside of China,” Altbach wrote in an e-mail. “China’s global influence and prestige in higher education is best served by strengthening its universities at home and offering a ‘world class’ education to Chinese students and expanded numbers of overseas students.”
Starting in the 1990s, China — aiming to graduate more college students — began to build new campuses, encourage privatization of higher education and expand enrollment. The rush has been accompanied with criticism that quality has been overlooked by quantity and that Chinese colleges have failed to prepare their students for the job market, or to deliver a well-rounded education.
The changes have helped draw international students, whose numbers in mainland China are growing and topped 290,000 in 2011.
China also has encouraged its youth to seek education abroad and has invited foreign universities — especially top institutes — to set up joint programs and branch campuses to help meet the demand for quality education.
The city of Kunshan in Jiangsu province is building a $ 260 million campus for Duke University, and New York University will open an outpost in Shanghai with classes to begin in this fall.
“Many people in higher education in China who are committed to educational reform hope that these moves overseas and also the move of foreign universities to China will create more pressure for reform within Chinese universities,” Gallagher said.
China maintains a highly specialized approach to university studies that has its roots in the Soviet model, but many Chinese educators want to blend in more liberal education to encourage social morals, civic responsibility, innovation and critical thinking.
In Malaysia, where British universities have expanded in recent years, the plans by China’s Xiamen University have been lauded by the government, with Prime Minister Najib Razak calling it “historic.” The branch campus will likely attract many among Malaysia’s large ethnic Chinese minority for courses that will range from economics to chemical engineering and Chinese literature.
Ethnic Chinese comprise more than one-fifth of Malaysia’s 29 million people, and some of them have complained that their children face difficulties securing places in Malaysian state-backed universities because of affirmative action policies that favor the ethnic Malay majority.
Xiamen has roots in the country, in a sense: The university was founded in 1921 by Tan Kah Kee, a business tycoon who made his fortune in Southeast Asia, including what is now Malaysia.
“It’s a giveback from history,” Xiamen University President Zhu Chongshi said, as quoted by the national party newspaper People’s Daily.
The government is squarely behind the efforts by Chinese universities to expand abroad: The signing in China of the Zhejiang University agreement with London’s Imperial College was attended by a provincial governor. But universities say they must find the funding for the branches on their own from tuition revenue and private sources.
That is in contrast to the Confucius Institutes, which are directly subsidized by Beijing, said Chen of the Laos branch campus.
But despite funding challenges, she said she is optimistic about the future of the branch campus in Laos, where she noted there is a growing middle class eager for quality education and keen to do business with China.
“We do not have to worry about finding students,” she said. “There’s a huge demand for education here.”


Doo doo doo doo doo doo: ‘Baby Shark’ bites into the culture

Updated 13 December 2018
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Doo doo doo doo doo doo: ‘Baby Shark’ bites into the culture

  • The song has a catchy rhythm and it uses silly sounds as well as colorful and cute animation
  • In the wise words of James Corden, there comes along a song every so often that defines a generation

NEW YORK: In the wise words of James Corden, there comes along a song every so often that defines a generation.
Doo doo doo doo doo doo.
The late-night TV host, carpool karaoke king and father of three young children was referring specifically, and wryly, to “Baby Shark,” now the bloodthirstiest of earworms for some parents and meme lovers everywhere.
Insert shark hands here.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve been living inside a sea anemone since at least 2015. That’s when an educational content brand in South Korea, Pinkfong , released its first shark video, later breaking the Internet with a version mixing animation and two adorable human kids dancing out the story of a shark family, K-pop style, earning more than 2 billion views on YouTube.
If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, you haven’t spent enough time at summer camp or around a campfire, where singalong versions of said story with said gestures, akin to an old nursery rhyme with the same theme, have rocked on for decades.
Now, thanks to the #babysharkchallenge that has us all singing, doing our shark hands and sharing on social media, and thanks to piles of soft shark heads, toddler attire and other swag that includes singing plush toys and books, “Baby Shark” is a full-on craze, for bite-size fans anyway.
“Our toddler’s shark video addiction is a huge issue in our household,” said Columbus, Ohio, mom Kitty French. “At first it was a cute melody. Now it’s an earworm that literally all of our parent friends understand.”
Not all grown-ups are weary. If they were, would they continue to upload themselves in mashups and mixes, from R&B to Santa Claus? Can we do without the absolutely cutest home video of them all, the little girl begging Alexa to play her favorite shark jam, frustrated by the not-so-smart device’s inability to understand? What about the Texas family so enamored they synchronized their blinking, blinding holiday yard lights to the snappy tune?
Some parents of special needs kids think “Baby Shark” has not only entertained but helped their young ones.
Holly Anderson is a Utah mother of four, including a 3-year-old son with autism and apraxia of speech. His autism therapist uses children’s songs on YouTube to motivate him to sit still and was the first to show him “Baby Shark.”
“He’s overstimulated visually and usually won’t watch any shows on TV or the iPad,” Anderson said. “He has a very difficult time staying still, even for a moment, and usually spends his time running around in therapy. I’m honestly not sick of it yet since it’s one of the only ways to get him calm after a meltdown.”
The one he likes the most is by Pinkfong, she said. The company has put up more than one version. Other parents said their kids prefer versions of baby, mama, papa, grandma and grandpa shark from a content provider called Super Simple. There are many, many other offerings to choose from and many, many more millions of views than the jackpot scored by Pinkfong for its dance version.
Corden, host of “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” isn’t the only celebrity to take on baby shark madness. He enlisted Sophie Turner and Josh Groban to perform the song on air . Ellen DeGeneres put her spin on the song on her talk show as well and Simon Cowell’s 4-year-old son popped up on the “X-Factor UK” as dancing cuteness ensued with singing kids accompanied by adults in shark suits for the opening of the grand final this year.
Bob Cunningham, an educator and senior adviser for the nonprofit consortium Understood.org, which supports parents of kids with learning and attention issues, sees several benefits to “Baby Shark.”
“The song has a catchy rhythm and it uses silly sounds as well as colorful and cute animation,” he said. “Also, both the music and the animation are predictable, with repeated words, phrases, colors and movements.”
The combinations can capture and sustain attention even in children where attention isn’t a strength, Cunningham said. The song and video also engage most of the senses simultaneously and combine language with music and movement, which can appeal to kids who struggle with any of those things when they are presented in isolation. For example, the movement can support less developed language and the music can offer support when movements are difficult, he said.
Clearly, other kid content can do the same, but “Baby Shark” ruled at Jason Simms’ house, at least for a time.
Simms, who lives in Deep River, Connecticut, said his 14-month-old daughter Fionnuala first heard the song when she was 8 months old but has since tired of it, before her parents did, once her language comprehension skills began kicking in.
“It was one of the first things in life she directly expressed a preference for, so that’s why we picked it for her Halloween costume,” he said. “At the end of the Super Simple version, it says ‘bye bye sharks’ and that became how we say bye in our family. She now fusses when she hears it.”
But there’s plenty more fish in the “Baby Shark” sea.
A Montreal-based company, WowWee, has a Pinkfong license for North America to sell the shark family in plush toys that sing when tummies are squeezed, along with soft song cube versions. Available exclusively on Amazon on pre-order that guaranteed delivery in time for Christmas, they sold out in two and a half days earlier this month, said Davin Sufer, WowWee’s chief technology officer.
Sufer would not disclose how many units were gobbled up at $19.99 each. More will be rolled out at a broader range of retailers come early 2019, along with new offerings. Third-party sellers who nabbed the toys are now offering them for more than $100 on Amazon.
The privately-held WowWee was already in talks with Pinkfong as far back as nearly a year ago when “Baby Shark” truly exploded, said Sufer, who has three kids of his own, including a 9-year-old daughter who came home from camp last summer singing the song before she knew his involvement.
“The tune itself has an addictive quality to it,” he said. “You hear it once or twice and you hear yourself singing, doo doo doo doo doo doo. I could see maybe parents getting a little tired of it, but kids aren’t.”