Berlin’s Senate Chancellery – Higher Education and Research has given its seal of approval to the development of a new teacher-training degree program, “Chinese Language and Society” at Freie Universität Berlin. Students will be able to enroll in the degree program starting winter semester 2021/2022. The curriculum for the degree program is being put together by the sinologist Professor Andreas Guder at Freie Universität. He currently holds an endowed professorship with a term of five years that receives funding from the Chinese International Education Foundation (CIEF), which is affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education. Professor Guder has been researching didactic issues related to teaching Chinese as a foreign language for 20 years and is the long-standing chair of the professional association Fachverband Chinesisch e.V.
Twelve secondary schools in Berlin currently offer Chinese to their students. However, there is a pronounced shortage in state-certified teachers who possess both the necessary language skills and educational training to teach the subject satisfactorily. The new combi bachelor degree program “Chinese Language and Society” is designed to bridge this gap and overcome the skills shortage. The teacher-training degree program was approved by all responsible committees at Freie Universität Berlin prior to Berlin’s Senate Chancellery – Higher Education and Research signaling its endorsement.
“China’s growing importance on the international stage means that cooperating closely with this global player will become even more essential in the future,” says Professor Günter M. Ziegler, president of Freie Universität Berlin, who believes that a profound understanding of Chinese culture, language, and its long history, which all make China so unique, will be critical in meeting these demands.
Freie Universität initiated renegotiations with its Chinese partner after the Berlin Senate expressed concerns regarding three points in the cooperation agreement for the professorship. All of these points were clarified by Freie Universität, and the new contract was signed by both parties at the end of last year. Ziegler has made it clear that the university will provide the funds for the professorship should it become necessary – for example, if the Chinese government attempts to exert influence on studying, teaching, and research at Freie Universität. The contract between Freie Universität and the Chinese International Education Foundation has a term of five years.
Freie Universität’s original contract partner was the organization Confucius Institutes Headquarters (Hanban), a subdivision of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China that promotes cultural exchange with China abroad.