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TC's Xiaodong Lin to Play Key Role in China's Effort to Educate Its Minorities

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Xiaodong Lin

Xiaodong Lin

Xiaodong Lin, a TC faculty member who is an authority on cognition, culture and technology, has been named Director of the Advisory Board of Research for China’s new National Research Center for Ethnic Minority and Multicultural Education. The Center will be hosted at Beijing Normal University in collaboration with the Chinese Ministry of Education.  The advisory board consists of 20 scholars, educational leaders and teachers from China, the United States and other countries.

The Center was created to further education for China’s minority populations on a variety of fronts, and more broadly, to promote social peace, understanding  and collaboration among students and teachers from different ethnic, language, gender and social economic backgrounds and regions.  The Center serves as a research, theory and policy development engine on minority education; develops assessments for measuring the minority educational initiatives of the central and local governments; educates and trains teachers on how to understand and teach minority children; suggests and approves the development and distribution of instructional materials and curricula for minority and remote regions; and serves as a platform for international collaboration and exchange. During its first two years, the Center will research how to improve the motivation to learn of students from different ethnic and low-income backgrounds and remote areas, particularly on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  Female students’ education and leadership development and dual language learning are other important areas to tackle. 

Lin is an expert on using technology to improve cognition and motivation to learn of students of varied cultures and ethnicity. In fall 2012, together with Stanford University social psychologist Carol Dweck, she launched a five-year, $2.5 million project funded by the National Science Foundation to test the impact of two classroom-based motivational instruction programs on students’ performance in STEM courses. One program employs a neurocognitive approach that teaches students about the brain’s plasticity -- that their minds and brains can literally change and grow through hard work – while the other takes a social-historical approach that acquaints students with stories of how famous scientists such as Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton and Marie Curie had to struggle to achieve their breakthrough discoveries.

“The current Chinese government is determined to understand and unite minorities and to let international communities understand how China is educating its minorities,” Lin said.  Chinese and American minority populations are different on the surface; for example, Chinese minorities usually live in remote areas that are not integrated with the majority population.  Some of the minority groups also have their own oral and written languages, religions and living styles.  The majority of Chinese minority college students tend to be educated in separate minority universities.  “Yet, the two countries face many similar challenges in minority education. For instance, minority students in both countries are shown to have lower motivation and confidence in learning STEM subject matter; minority students’ school and college dropout rate concerns both the U.S. and China.  Developing culturally appropriate curricula, instructional materials and assessments is yet another common challenges for both countries.  Reducing stereotypes and enhancing understanding between minority and majority students and teachers is also a challenge that both countries share.  These shared challenges make it not only possible, but highly desirable for the two countries to collaborate and share their knowledge and achievements in minority education.”  Lin suggested.

China has been deeply collaborating with many American corporations and foundations on its minority education.  For instance, UNICEF, the FORD Foundation, UNESCO, NSF Beijing Office, World Bank, IBM, Apple etc. are very actively collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Beijing Normal University in their efforts to improve minority education in remote areas.  In the next 10 years, the Chinese government will invest even more in improving education, especially teacher education, in these remote areas, because such improvement is very important for international peace and economic development.  It makes sense that TC, with its longstanding special relationship with China, would be front and center in China’s efforts to educate minorities, and I am honored to be part of that work.”

Lin was appointed to her new post by a committee led by Madam Liu Chung Sheng, a member of China’s Senate who also serves as Chairman of the Board of Council and Trustees of Beijing Normal University.


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