Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Gretchen sent me a link to an interesting article about a new cross cultural college being developed on the site of the old State Hospital in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The description is a bit sketchy yet, but it sounds like it will be a combination of two things--a school for Chinese young people to study business, and a place for American young people to study Chinese through language immersion. Could be a good idea if it is done correctly. When American students and Chinese students mix, they usually speak English, because that is the language they have in common. But they could still set up immersion classes that would give students quite a bit more language exposure than they would get in a normal college language course.

For the Chinese kids, it sounds like the school is cashing in on the tremendous demand for education in China, much like the University I teach at in Beihai. Don't have the figures for this year, but I remember a couple years ago, there were about 8 million students taking the National Entrance Exam for a chance to get one of 3 million seats. So what about the 5 million students who don't make the grade? In the past, they had to go out into the fields and work in the hot sun. But now, many of them are getting an education, because their parents are willing to pay a premium to send them to a private college. I don't know what the number is--I don't think anybody does, because obviously, among those 5 million students who did not pass the entrance exam, a large number simply would not be able to afford the private college alternative. But a lot of them are figuring out how to do it. It bothers me in a way, because it seems like the private colleges are taking advantage of students who didn't make the grade. But at the same time, they are providing opportunity. But the demand is higher than what they can fill. So it appears that schools outside of China are trying to recruit some of these students. Everybody wants to get into the act. But the approach in Fergus Falls is unique, I think, because it focuses on the cross cultural component, instead of just trying to squeeze Chinese students into an American mold. Mind you, there are plenty of Chinese students who want to be squeezed into an American mold (at least with regard to academics). But there are lots of students who would probably adapt more easily to something that accommodates their limited language proficiency. And at least a few American students are going to get a unique chance to do some immersion language learning in a school designed entirely for the purpose of cross-cultural training. This is one to watch.

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