From the Matteo Ricci Program to the ADDU-Confucius Institute

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[Address, Inauguration of the ADDU-Confucius Institute, 2nd floor, Finster Hall]

The Vice President of Huaqiao University:  Mr. Zeng Lu
The Head of the Chinese Language and Culture Education of Huaqiao University, Prof. Hu Pei An
Director of Office for the Board of Trustees of Huaqiao University,
Mr. Xiang Shi Min
Director of International Exchange and Cooperation Office of Huaqiao University, Mr. Zhao Xin Cheng
Representative of Huaqiao University to the Philippines, Mr. Michael Zhang
Alumni of Huaqiao University, Mr. Zhuang Jia
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It is my pleasure to welcome you all to Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) for the formal Inauguration of the ADDU-Confucius Institute.  Despite the holiday season and the nearness of our celebration of Christmas, I thank you for taking time to celebrate with us on this momentous occasion.

Just one week ago during the International Conference on the Teaching of the Chinese Language in the beautiful city of Changsha in Hunan Province, I signed a Memorandom of Agreement with the Vice Minister of Education Tuan Xuejun that effectively welcomed the ADDU to the Family of Confucius Institutes in the world today.  The experience of that international conference was overwhelming.  I interacted with participants from Malta, Brazil, Madagascar, Georgia, Bali, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia.  There were representations from 550 Confucius Institutes serving some 100,000 million people studying Mandarin in the world today outside of China!

On the Establishment of a Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Davao University

The establishment of a Confucius Institute in the ADDU actively responds to the need for enhanced instruction in “Mandarin”, the common Chinese language, as well as for increased appreciation of Chinese culture in Davao City and in Mindanao.  This is a demand of the growing cultural, social, political and commercial interaction between China and the Philippines, especially here in Mindanao;  it is a demand also of the Association of Southeast and Asian Nations (ASEAN) which has recently agreed to improve its relationships with China.

Today, we look back with gratitude to November 2018, when the ADDU and Huaqiao University, supported vigorously by Chinese Consul General to Davao Li Lin and Mayor Sara Duterte, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Huaquiao University in Xiamen to work together to establish a Confucius Institute in Davao. I was one of the signatories of that agreement representing ADDU.  The other was Vice President Zeng Lu representing Huaquiao University.  We are very happy to welcome Mr. Zeng Lu to the ADDU today and to the ADDU-CI we agreed together to establish.

In this context, Ateneo de Davao University has the distinction of being the first Confucius Institute in the Philippines outside of Luzon. With the increasing demand for a Mandarin speaking citizenry in the coming years, the curricular offering of Mandarin language and Chinese culture shall address the needs of improved bilateral cultural and economic exchanges between Davao City and Jinjiang City, and China and the Philippines.

The Matteo Ricci Mandarin Program: Precursor

The Matteo Ricci Mandarin Program at the Ateneo de Davao was the precursor of the ADDU–CI.  Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit scientist and theologian who travelled to China in 1582 during the late Ming dynasty, mastered the Chinese language and acted as a bridge between western and Chinese science and culture.   Established in August 2012, the Matteo Ricci Mandarin Program worked closely with the Confucius Institute of the Angeles University Foundation (CI-AUF) in the local promotion of Chinese language and culture. For the past three years, however, apparently due to the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, Chinese volunteers were no longer sent to the Ateneo de Davao University to teach Mandarin language and culture.  The resulting dearth of qualified Mandarin teachers in Mindanao underscored an unfortunate imbalance in the distribution of Confucius Institutes in the Philipines.  There were four Confucius Institures in Luzon, and none in the middle Island group of the Visayas, and as of yet none in the southern islands of Mindanao.  Today, the first Confucius Institute in Mindanao is finally being established in our University.

With the growing need for Mandarin not only as a language of business and communication but also as a language of understanding, friendship and peace in our complex world, the Ateneo de Davao University acknowledges the long-term benefits that students gain through a growing competence in Mandarin and designs its curricula to respond to the challenges of learning a foreign language.

Already today, around 700 college students enroll in Mandarin classes each year with a range of 3 to 12 units depending on the curricular requirement per discipline. In a semester, the Matteo Ricci Mandarin program offers an average of 13-15 classes of Mandarin at 20 – 25 students per class and 4 classes of Mandarin in the summer. Ateneo de Davao University college students who have taken units in Mandarin are also qualified to take the Mandarin Proficiency Exams (HSK) exams. Over the years, students have shown themselves able to pass the HSK on various various levels.

At one point, the Ateneo de Davao University was tapped by the Confucius Institute at Angeles University Foundation to be the test provider for the HSK in Mindanao. During this period, our college students learning Mandarin were required to pass Basic Mandarin, which was included in the computation of the quality point index (QPI) they needed to maintain for retention in the University.

Ateneo de Davao alumni have proven themselves qualified to work competently in the Chinese Consul Generalate Office, while other students from the Business and Accountancy courses who work in banks and business establishments boast of their comparative edge because of their Mandarin-speaking skills. For some, once they pass the HSK, they can opt to participate in higher Mandarin courses in China. Given the current developments and innovation in the General Education Curriculum in the Higher Education sector in the Philippines, the teaching of a Foreign Language is required. The Ateneo de Davao University has required Mandarin in many courses in the School of Business and Governance and certain courses of the School of Arts and Sciences.

Apart from the curricular offering of Mandarin in the University, short-term courses in conversational and business Mandarin have been offered through Ateneo de Davao’s Academy of Lifelong Learning (ADD-ALL). These certificate courses are designed for adults, businessmen, and professionals who are interested to learn Mandarin as a practical foreign language. Mandarin classes are scheduled on Saturdays to address the demand of the corporate world and working professionals. This year, a group of ADD-ALL learners joined a study and cultural tour in Jinjiang, China as an integral component of their Mandarin language sessions and Chinese culture module. More of these types of language and cultural visits to China are now in the pipeline for the Ateneo de Davao Academy of Lifelong Learning, and now, the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Davao University.

On ways forward through the new ADDU-Confucius Institute

In the ADDU- CI, we will always be inspired by the memory of the Jesuit scholar, Mateo Riccin China.  But in his spirit of adaptation, we gladly take on the culture of the family of the Confucius Institutes in order to further instruction in the Chinese language and in the best of the Chinese culture in Mindanao and beyond.  Thus as a Confucius Institute – with the vigorous help of our partners in Huaquiao University and the Hanban – we hope:

  • to strengthen our instruction in the Mandarin language in our higher education courses both on the undergraduate and graduate school levels;
  • to continue to serve local government units like the provincial government of Davao de Oro in their desire to learn Mandarin;
  • to serve the Davao business community, especially the Filipino members of this community with Chinese blood and heritage, who wish urgently to learn Mandarin;
  • to support the teaching of Mandarin in the basic education level, first, at Ateneo de Davao, second, at public schools, in Davao, at other public and private schools in Mindanao and in the Visayas, e.g. in Huaming, Bacolod, who is already reaching out to us urgently for trained teaching personnel.
  • To serve interested government units in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the Philippine National Police, the Military and the Immigration Services.
  • To encourage the participation of our students in the Summer and Winter Camps of the Hanban as well as to organize cultural and educational visits to China;
  • To work closely with the Hanban in order establish appropriate standards of external quality control for our teaching programs;
  • To consider seriously in partnership with Huaquiao University the establishment of an ADDU BS in Secondary Education, major in teaching English and Mandarin, in order to begin developing our own teachers in Mandarin;
  • To identify scholars whom we might recommend to Huaquiao university for a four-year scholarship for a Master’s in Teaching the Chinese Language;
  • To act as a safe space for dialogue between academicians and experts to discuss issues of common concern towards the establishment of deeper friendship, understanding, complementary properity and peace between our countries.

Thank you therefore for being part of our celebration!  The establishment of the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Davao University shall serve the growing demand in Mindanao and in the Visayas for Mandarin teachers, Mandarin language programs, HSK exams and certifications, spaces for speaking Mandarin in the Philippines, cultural camps and lived experiences of the reality of China.  Given the strategic location of the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City and its influence in the Philippine educational landscape, granting the assistance it needs for qualified teachers from its partners in China, it shall become a dynamic hub for the promotion of Chinese language,  culture, and arts in a significant portion of the Philippines.

 

 

 

 

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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