Brenau Forms Pact with One of China’s Top 10 Universities for Early Childhood Education Program
The People’s Republic of China and Anhui Province have approved an agreement between Brenau University and Anhui Normal University for a joint degree program in early childhood teacher education that is designed to bring scores of Chinese students to Georgia starting in 2016, as well as provide study abroad opportunities for American students and faculty exchanges from both institutions.
Brenau University President Ed Schrader, Anhui Normal University President Wang Lun and Zhu Jiacon, vice president of the 35,000-student university based in Wuhu in Southeastern China, signed and announced broad details of the agreement after Schrader and Pete Miller, chair of the Brenau University Board of Trustees, traveled to China last week to put finishing touches on the unprecedented arrangement.
The arrangement already had been approved by both the provincial government and the national ministry of education. Called “two-plus-two” programs, named so because the arrangements are for Chinese undergraduate students to spend the first two years of their college careers in country, graduating after a second two-year period on campus in another country, the agreements are difficult to attain. The Chinese government denied 116 two-plus-two programs last year. On average over the past three years China has approved only about 30 percent of the applications. In addition, when applications are successful, it is usually only after many months – sometimes years – of negotiation.
In addition, according to Brenau’s Education Consultant Tiff Wang of Anhui Skying Educational Consultants, the government tends to favor science programs rather than those geared more toward liberal arts, like teacher education.
However, the Brenau-ANU deal sped through after ANU Vice President Zhu Jiacon headed a delegation on a Georgia visit in late April.
Dr. Schrader said that the agreement and the speed with which it was approved underscores China’s commitment to improve teacher education in the country and the recognition that Brenau – less than 1/10th the size of ANU – “is an internationally recognized and innovative leader in development of adaptive education programs.”
“It is a great honor that the governments of China and Anhui Province have endorsed this agreement that formally links Brenau University’s teacher education programs with one of the top 10 comprehensive universities in all of China,” said Schrader. “This is a very, very strong statement regarding the quality of Brenau University’s teacher education programs.”
Schrader said that Brenau’s comparative size and its relatively low student/teacher ratio was a key selling point. The Chinese officials and academics “thought that would actually benefit their students because they were coming out of an environment of very large class sizes.”
The government approval, he said, was more an “accreditation action” than a political or diplomatic activity.
“Chinese government agencies are to Chinese education what the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and other regional accrediting bodies are to U.S. education,” he explained. “The national and provincial governments function as the educational accrediting agencies in China.”
Sandy Leslie, dean of the Brenau University College of Education, said that ANU, the only university in Anhui Province to admit foreign students, boasts about 1,000 teacher education majors. In the agreement with Brenau, Dr. Leslie said that the university will select “the cream of the crop” to spend the last two years of their undergraduate years at Brenau for interns focused on learning the highly successful American techniques for educating children up to about 8 years old. The program particularly stresses learning before the children begin compulsory education, typically at about age 6 in the United States. Once ANU students have completed their studies, those students will graduate from Brenau, but will receive diplomas from both institutions.
Under the terms of the agreement, Anhui Normal will begin now with an intense two-year preparation of 25 to 40 elite students from each freshman class for enrollment at Brenau. The first group of 27 students, already enrolled in their first year at ANU, will begin studies in Gainesville, Georgia, in August 2016. Once fully operational, with a new group of students arriving in time for each fall term, the Brenau program will have about 75 Chinese students on campus and actively engaged at all times.
“Anhui will use Brenau’s template for core courses and prerequisites in preparing these students,” said Leslie. The students will also undergo intense English language study and practice during their two-year preparatory period in China.
The institutions will also exchange faculty and Brenau will receive qualified instructors for Chinese language courses for American students. Dr. Nancy Krippel, Brenau’s vice president for academic affairs and the university provost, said she has several faculty members who have already expressed interest in teaching in China.
Brenau has significant experience in partnerships with Chinese higher education institutions and in developing programs for Chinese students, including a series of highly regarded Master of Business Administration cohorts.