[photopress:Xu_Zhihong_of_Peking_University.jpg,full,alignright]In an interview with Der Spiegel — think of it as the Time magazine of Germany — the president of Peking University, Xu Zhihong, discussed the state of China’s higher education system and the challenges of the mass growth of universities and shifting professional needs.
Among other things he said, ‘It is difficult to compare universities because the standards are so different. But according to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago between 1999 and 2003 of foreign baccalaureate-origin institutions that non-American students attended before receiving doctorate degrees in the United States, Beijing University ranks the second in the world after Seoul National University. . . .
‘In China last year there were 9 million high school graduates who wanted to study; 5.4 million were accepted by universities and colleges. Peking University, however, recruits only 3,000 freshmen. They are the best from each province.’
Talking of the teaching methods at Chinese universities he said, ‘It is true that a lot of people are very concerned about the Chinese educational system. Because of the rapid changes in our economy and society, and progress in the areas of science and technology, we need graduates who are able to survive the fierce competition, to meet our society’s diverse requirements. That is exactly the reason why we are reforming our curriculum.
‘The students are not only encouraged but also required to spread out their interests to different subjects. All freshmen at our university, including the students of humanities are, for example, required to take mathematics. The aim is to improve their logical thinking abilities. Technicians and natural scientists, on the other hand, have to attend some classes in the humanities and art.’
When asked why only a small percentage of students attended university Xu Zhihong said. ‘Ten years ago only 9% of the applicants were accepted by universities and colleges. Now the rate is 22%. That’s already huge progress. But now we’re encountering another problem: We don’t have enough highly qualified professors and teachers to meet the needs of so many students. This is an especially serious problem for schools in the provinces.’
Source: Der Speigel