Brenau University has struck an agreement with a top Chinese university to bring a steady flow of Chinese students to Gainesville.
The People’s Republic of China and the Anhui Province recently approved the creation of a joint-degree program in early childhood education between Brenau and Anhui Normal University in Wuhu, China.
Called a “two-plus-two” program, the agreement allows select Chinese undergraduate students to spend the first two years of college at Anhui Normal and the last two years at Brenau. The program will also open doors to abroad opportunities for Brenau students and professors.
“Having an international contingent will be most helpful to broaden our globalization, which is part of our strategic plan,” said Dr. Sandra Leslie, dean of Brenau’s College of Education. “We intend in the long run, to have faculty and students both go to China and vice versa.”
Brenau University President Ed Schrader traveled to China last week with Pete Miller, chairman of the Board of Trustees. Schrader said the plans for the program were nearly finalized, but they went to China for a cultural and formal affirmation of the negotiations.
“It’s really important with Chinese institutions that you recognize and honor their culture,” Schrader said. “There’s a long tradition in China that no matter how you carry out negotiations or present business plans, you really have to exchange personal visits. To solidify relationships, you have to shake hands and look people in the eyes.”
Leslie said Anhui Normal students will focus during the last two years of undergraduate study on American techniques for educating children up to age 8. Upon graduation, the students will graduate formally from Brenau with diplomas from both institutions.
The first group of students will begin studies in Gainesville in August 2016. Until then, Anhui Normal will prepare the 25 to 40 students selected from each class for the program.
Preparations include adherence to Brenau’s core courses and prerequisites and intense English language study.
Schrader said 27 students have already been chosen from Anhui Normal’s existing freshman class for admittance in 2016. He met with the students during his visit to China, and one of them asked him how the program will benefit Chinese students.
“The Chinese system literally educates hundreds of millions of students a year, all through its public education system,” Schrader said. “In order to do that, they have a different style of education than you find in America. They are very much dependent on large classroom numbers and they are much more regimented and methodical.”
Two-plus-two programs are difficult to attain in China, according to a press release from Brenau. Last year, 116 such programs were denied by the Chinese government, which approves only about 30 percent of the program applications it receives.
The arrangement was approved by both the provincial government in China and the national ministry of education. Schrader explained that the national and provincial governments function as the educational accrediting agencies in China.
“The Chinese ministry and local government do a great deal of research into the quality of the program and quality of the institution before they grant a two-plus-two program,” Schrader said. “To have passed that scrutiny is extremely gratifying.”
Schrader said being selected for the program means the Chinese government and Anhui Normal saw qualities in Brenau’s early childhood education program they wanted to add to their own program.
He said while the Chinese focus on facts and memorization, American education is about problem-solving and reason. The joint program will allow participating students to learn both.
“If you’re looking for a program that was designed to engage people in memory and learning facts in order to be able to repeat it, the Chinese have the best in the world,” Schrader said. “But without a doubt, American higher education is the best in the world.”