From late May to mid-June, York University Professor Qiang Zha, Faculty of Education, travelled to Mainland China, where he visited Tianjin University, Peking University, Anhui University, Anhui Normal University, and Fudan University, giving talks during several of his stops.
In Tianjin University, China’s first modern institution of higher learning (founded in 1895), Zha was engaged as a Distinguished Research Fellow in its Institute of University Culture and History Research. While at the other universities, he gave talks on topics pertaining to the internationalization of higher education, the discourse of an emerging Chinese model of the university, egalitarian aspects of Canadian higher education and liberal arts education in the 21st century.
The highlight of Zha’s trip was at an international conference, Liberal Arts Innovation in China, held June 13 to 15 at Duke Kunshan University (DKU), an offshore campus of Duke University. While at the conference, Zha, together with Professors William Kirby of Harvard University (former dean of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences), Gerry Postiglione of the University of Hong Kong (associate dean of the Faculty of Education), and Yong Zhao of University of Kansas (foundation distinguished professor, School of Education) were invited as keynote speakers.
In his presentation, titled ‘Toward Humanist, Cognitive and Global Education in China’, Zha argued that, while rooted in cultivation of humanism, an effective/ideal liberal arts education curriculum in the 21st century must take into account those significant changes in contemporary and future society. He further stated that such changes arguably include higher education massification, the increasingly knowledge-based economy, and globalization.
“As such, the liberal arts education curriculum for the 21st century university in China and elsewhere should ideally comprise such essential units: humanist education, cognitive education, and global education,” he said.
This liberal arts education curriculum would move beyond a type of “elite education” and help address equity issues in higher education and society at large. It will foster students’ abilities/competencies for purpose learning, scientific learning and global confidence, which in turn help overcome the constraints or even crisis of liberal arts education in China and elsewhere.
Further findings of this study will be presented at 2017 conferences of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) in November in Houston, Texas.