During the course of this semester (Fall 2012), I got a chance to visit the North China Electric Power University (NCEPU) located in Beijing, China. I came here to give a talk on the research that I had done in my field at Virginia Tech. This trip provided me with a wonderful opportunity to view up-close the higher education system of the power group at NCEPU and through it, that of the nation itself. The fact that I am writing this blog while still on Chinese soil is an indication of the influence that it has had on me.
On my first day here, I got a chance to interact with the students who were working under the guidance of the professor who had invited us to China. We started talking about courses, research and classes. They had three, 2-hour courses for every subject in a week. I found out that here, more stress was given to the teaching done in class rather than homework/take-home assignments. There also appeared to be no mid-terms and surprise tests; just a final exam (although these could be specific to the program they were in). A lot of stress was given on publishing the results and making others aware of the work that they had done, as was apparent from the number of papers that the group had written in the recent past. Novelty of work was also emphasized as their PhD committee included two people which were unknown to the students and who would independently judge the quality of the dissertation.
Regarding the students themselves, the first thing that I noticed was their sincerity and dedication towards their work. The language was indeed a barrier initially (the courses being taught in Chinese, and all) but once we got over that, I found the students to be very bright and exceptionally fast on the uptake. The questions they asked were to the point and valid and the discussions that ensued were beneficial to both them as well as myself. I was also amazed to see the amount of respect and devotion that the students had for their professors/advisers.
It has been an interesting two days that I have spent here and am really looking forward to knowing more about the “Chinese way of imparting education” in the coming week.