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Public Affairs

Confucius Institute established on campus

December 14, 2005

SFSU has been chosen as the first western United States home for the Confucius Institute, a Chinese language center with offices around the world that is dedicated to making Chinese language instruction readily available to anyone who needs or wishes to learn. The establishment of a branch at SFSU places San Francisco among four U.S. cities to host the Confucius Institute. The others are New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. (based at the University of Maryland).

Driven by China's prominence in the world market, the number of people studying Chinese in the United States has climbed significantly. According to the Modern Language Association, the number has increased 20 percent since 1998.

Last spring, Sens. Joe Leiberman and Lamar Alexander introduced a bill to authorize $1.3 billion over five years to fund Chinese language instruction in schools with the aim of improving business and cultural relations with China.

The demand for Chinese classes in K-12 schools is already a priority in public education across the nation. Only 240 U.S. schools now offer Chinese but this number is expected to increase tenfold within the next few years. A program to certify qualified instructors of Chinese for K–12 schools is one of the responsibilities the institute will take on at SFSU.

Three of SFSU's colleges will collaborate on Confucius Institute programs. The College of Education will train teachers and develop curricula. The College of Humanities will offer courses to matriculated students and the College of Extended Learning will provide classes to non-diploma students.

Yenbo Wu, director of international programs and Christy Lao, assistant professor of elementary education, have worked with the Chinese government since 2004 to secure the institute on the SFSU campus. "Having it here positions SFSU as a school that takes international study very seriously," Wu said. "Providing our students, faculty and staff with international experiences, perspectives and competencies is a strategic priority at SFSU."

The Confucius Institute Program was developed in Beijing by China's National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. The institute's mission is to promote collegial relationships with other countries and enhance understanding of Chinese language and culture through facilitating instruction. Twenty branches of the institute have been established in other countries including Australia, Sweden, Japan and Great Britain.

The program at SFSU will report to the provost via the Office of International Programs. The institute will operate as a nonprofit organization and be responsible for most of its own fundraising. It has already attracted the attention of national political, cultural and education leaders from the Chinese American community.

For more on the program, see the China's Confucius Institute Project Web page.

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified December 14, 2005 by University Communications