A century after Tao Xingzhi studied at Columbia University, the renowned educator now has a campus center named after him. Columbia University's Teachers College, the first and largest graduate school of education in the United States, is renaming its 16-year-old Center on Chinese Education for Tao. The Tao Xingzhi Center for Chinese Education is the result of a partnership between the college and China America Friendship Association (CAFA).
The association will lead fundraising eff orts to create a $3 million endowment for the center, ensuring that its legacy of innovation and progress will endure. "It is creating a new chapter in the historic relationship between Teachers College and China," said Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman. Xiao Yunfei, president of CAFA, hopes the center can help promote Tao's philosophy about education and innovation. "I believe the Tao Xingzhi Center will bring more innovation to the Chinese education system, and encourage more people to follow Tao's legacy," said Xiao, who will also be director of the center. Tao studied educational philosophy under American education reformer John Dewey from 1915 to 1917.
After returning to China, Tao co-founded the China Education Improvement Society, organized the National Association of Mass Education and founded Xiao Zhuang Normal College in Nanjing to train teachers and educators, most of whom became teachers at rural schools.
He was a leader in nationwide literacy campaigns and a pioneer in rural-teacher training in early 20th century China, and was referred to by many as "teacher of teachers" and "great educator of the people". It was the second honor this year for Tao at the Teachers College.
In January, a bronze bust of Tao was unveiled in the C.V. Starr East Asian Library. At that time, the Dragon Summit Foundation, a New York City-based non-profi t organization, established an endowment fund. The foundations is also among the sponsors of the Tao Xingzhi Center.
The center aims to facilitate the understanding of Chinese education and to promote educational exchange between the US and China.
"Hopefully this project can call on more people both in China and here in the states to focus on and to make more contributions to education," said Zhao Ting, CAFA executive secretary general. Zhao, who will attend Teachers College this fall, received her undergraduate education in China.
She said she has benefited from the two educational systems. "I hope the program would help students who want to benefi t from both educational systems, to build up themselves and also the society," she said.
Mun Tsang, founder and director of the original Center on Chinese Education, is optimistic about the new center's mission. "Currently we have four programs, research and development, education and training, outreach and exchange, and seminars," he said.
"With the new name and additional funding, we can better facilitate those programs," he said. Judith Burton, professor of art and art education at Teachers College since the 1990s, emphasizes the importance of cultural exchange.
"Education is based on culture, and culture shapes the value of people. So it's important that a college-level platform is provided for the cultural exchange activities between the US and China, two infl uential countries in the current world, especially when a Ivy League school joins," Burton said.
As director of the college's program in art and art education, she has collaborated with China's Central Academy of Fine Arts to create an art education master's degree program for Chinese students.
"The more people learn about different cultures, the more they are willing to talk to people with different backgrounds, and that is good for both countries," she said. "I've engaged in the Center on Chinese Education a lot, and I hope the new changes would help us do better." Nancy Kong in New York contributed to this story.