Education and Science as foundations of modern societies

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On May 23rd, during the German Week 2012, the KAS | Shanghai and the Chinese-German Academic Association (CDHK) jointly organized a lecture with Prof. Dr. Dr. Udo Di Fabio at Tongji Univeristy on the role of education and science in modern societies.

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Prof. Dr. Dr. Di Fabio, professor for constitutional law at the University of Bonn and former judge at the German federal constitutional court (1999 – 2011).

During his speech Professor Dr. Dr. Udo Di Fabio, professor for constitutional law at the University of Bonn and former judge at the German federal constitutional court (1999 – 2011), commented on the goals of the education in schools and universities in Germany and stressed the significance of the freedom of science. Already education in school should convey the ideal of freedom, mutual respect and also personal responsibility. Prof. Di Fabio sees the role of science not only in conveying the results of their research to their students but also to the entire society. Science which is not solely purpose driven and therefore is able to conduct research free of direct commercial or practical obligations constitutes the prerequisite for fundamental innovations. An important part of the German education system constitutes the teaching of practical abilities in the form of an apprentice in the dual education system – a decisive advantage of the German economy in the global competition.

In his presentation Prof. Zhou Weidong, director of the German Center for Cultural Exchange at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology (USST), described the major challenges for the Chinese education system. A challenge not yet resolved has to be seen in the rapidly increasing number of students at the public universities This has a negative impacts on the quality of research and teaching. In addition, many Chinese universities have to struggle with a high degree of bureaucracy and are often too focused on their commercial success. For example their intensive construction activities have resulted in debt for many universities which is now supposed to be balanced through an increase in admittances of students and the easing of entry requirements.

For some time now China strives to support the development of elite universities. In the context of the “985-Project”, 39 universities have been supported since 1998 in order to enable them to catch up with international top universities. This however bears the risk of other (small and regional) universities being neglected. Therefore during recent years a discussion about the fairness of the distribution of funds has been initiated.

During the following discussion the friction between politics and science was debated. Prof. Di Fabio stressed that especially a higher degree of independence of the universities in China could contribute to the improvement in the quality of research and teaching.

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China, May 23, 2012


Tim Wenniges