AUGUST 5, 2009

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ECU Offering Master's Degree Program to Teachers in China

Photo of Duane Anderson, Thomas Wallis, Bill Osborne of ECU.
Dr. Duane C. Anderson (center), representing East Central University, signs a partnership agreement with the Macau Song Qing Ling Foundation International Education Center in China that will allow Chinese teachers to earn master’s degrees from ECU. Thomas Wallis (left) represented the foundation at the signing ceremony. Watching is Dr. Bill Osborne, dean of ECU’s College of Education and Psychology.

A trip to East Central University last April by recruiters looking for American teachers for a new school in China has evolved into a partnership agreement that will allow Chinese teachers to earn master’s degrees from ECU.

The agreement was signed by Dr. Duane C. Anderson, as interim president of ECU, and Thomas Wallis, chairman of the Macau Song Qing Ling Foundation International Education Center. Wallis was one of the recruiters.

Beginning this August, Chinese students will be able to take online graduate courses from ECU during the fall and spring semesters. They will be required to come to ECU in the summer for two months of classes to complete the requirements for a master of education degree in either elementary or secondary education.

“We don’t anticipate more than a handful this year,” said Dr. Bill Osborne, dean of ECU’s College of Education and Psychology. “They would already have to have their TOEFL scores and have their transcripts verified because they have to meet all of ECU’s requirements to be admitted.”

The first students, who would not come to the campus until next summer, will be the two people who came on the recruiting trip to ECU in April, Wallis and Mia Wang. The Macau Song Qing Ling Foundation had established an education unit, Osborne explained, with Wallis as its chairman. They were looking for teachers for a pre-school/kindergarten, an English immersion boarding school for children 3 to 6 years old, being built by Wang’s father in Nanjing, China.

“While they were here, we outlined a quick document showing that we could offer online courses and summer courses at ECU. They took the information to China to Mia’s father and an agreement was worked out,” Osborne said.

Wallis is a native Oklahoman with a background in communications as a trainer for adults in business.

The foundation has had partnerships with other universities that cost Chinese students about $50,000 a year, Osborne said.

“This is an opportunity for their students to get a master’s degree at a reasonable price at a reputable university and be gone only two months,” he said. “There could be a market for this over there.”

Foundation officials looked at ECU’s reputation, its Web site, the number of programs it offers and the national accreditations it holds before agreeing to the proposal, he said.

The proposal also allows for the program to be expanded to include students seeking undergraduate degrees from ECU.

The foundation will charge fees to Chinese students to help them go through the steps to be admitted to ECU, Osborne said, such as securing visas and other documents, completing testing and collecting money and fees. Students do not have the use the foundation, however.

“This doesn’t cost ECU anything. It is a very well-known, prestigious foundation,” Osborne said. “It has many locations. This one is in Macau.”

In fact, the foundation is paying Osborne’s expenses to go to Nanjing, China, in July to give a lecture describing the method of continuing education for American teachers and to promote ECU’s proposal for offering graduate degrees to Chinese teachers.

He also will talk about other program options open to potential Chinese students to encourage them come to ECU for six months or for an entire academic year.

“This trip will focus primarily on graduate student recruitment,” he said. “But I’m sure we will also have opportunities to visit with students about to graduate from high schools as well as those who are in, or are about to enter, undergraduate programs in China.”

Osborne said China’s education system compares to the United States’ in the 1950s.

“In China, the teachers teach and the students sit quietly at their desks. They never question the teacher. We know now that students learn better if they are actively engaged,” he explained. “We want them to question what they are being taught. Critically analyze it, take it apart and be able to apply it to something else. We want to see students perform.”

Osborne said teachers should not just teach but also measure the effect of their teaching on learning.

“If students aren’t learning, why?” he asked. “Is it because of learning styles, developmental learning or something else? It can’t be all just the students. Teachers have to be part of the approach.”

Osborne said ECU’s master’s program in education is designed to teach students to understand and apply research and to use that knowledge to better educate children.

Chinese students will take a research methods course online to learn how to do research. They will design a research study that will be approved by ECU faculty and will conduct research at their own schools. They will bring their results to ECU in the summer to do a study on the effects of their teaching on student learning.

“For example,” Osborne said, “what are the questions we should be asking? Is one teaching method better than another? What if we try a strategy with one group but not another? Is doing this better than doing that? This is what the Chinese are not doing now.”

During their summer stay on campus, the Chinese will take 13 credit hours of classes.

“They will be very busy,” he said, “but we want to show them something about the culture in our country. They could design a lesson for our students or they could design a class about our culture to take to China.”

Osborne expects more than two students to enroll this fall but wants only a small number the first year.

“Evidently, a large number of teachers want to come to the United States,” he said. “There’s a potential for a very active, large program to develop here. This is a wonderful opportunity, if we make sure we take our time and do it right.”

The same online master’s program is available to other students, he said.

Osborne said the Chinese agreement is the result of assistance from a lot of other people at ECU, especially the heads of University Development, the Education Department, School of Graduate Studies, Career Development Center and the Admissions and Records, International Students and Bursar’s Offices.