190121, Saint Petersburg,
Soyuza Pechatnikov str., 16
The Department of Asian and African Studies was established in 2014 with the mission to foster high quality interdisciplinary research of Asian and African countries. It is based on two pillars: long and distinctive tradition of Asian and African Studies in St. Petersburg and interdisciplinary approach to education promoted by the Higher School of Economics. The goal of the Department is to provide students with a broad knowledge and understanding of specific regions of Asia and Africa, to promote communication and cooperation among all scholars interested in these areas at the Higher School of Economics and to encourage international academic exchange.
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The list of the participants in the round table included guest professors and scholars from the HSE St. Petersburg: member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Prof. Apollon Davidson, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Prof. Vladimir Myasnikov, senior lecturer at the Department of International Relations University of Malta Dr. Arsalan Alshinawi, director of the Institute of History of Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg Prof. Nikolai Smirnov, senior research fellow at the Research Laboratory of Sociology in Education and Science HSE St. Petersburg Vlada Baranova, leading research fellows at the Centre for Asian and African Studies HSE St. Petersburg Nina Grigoreva and Maria A. Soloshcheva, PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Global Politics Freie Universität Berlin Elena Soboleva. The discussion was moderated by the director of the Department of Asian and African Studies HSE St. Petersburg Prof. Zelenev, who also made a short overview of Islamic education and Muslim communities in the BRICS countries.
The round table started with the presentations of the guest speakers. One of the leading experts on China-Russia relations Prof. Vladimir Myasnikov provided a detailed and very personal overview of the development of the Beijing Language and Culture University in the last 50 years. It was followed by a talk titled “Racial and Ethnic Minorities in South Africa” given by the distinguished South Africa specialist Prof. Apollon Davidson. Vlada Baranova presented the latest results of the research project that focused on the status of migrant children at schools of St. Petersburg.
The presentations of the scholars from the Department of Asian and African Studies and the Centre of Asian and African studies were met with a particular interest. Nina Grigoreva described construction of national identity in the context of ethnic and cultural diversity in China and Vietnam. In both countries national identity is based on the ideas of solidarity and unity of all ethnic groups. In Vietnam this idea is justified by the so-called legendary period of history, which is included in the school curriculum. These chapters of national history talk about the birth of the nation and about common origin of all ethnic groups within it.
Elena Soboleva presented analysis of the ethnic minorities’ higher education policy in China. Since 1978 the Chinese government has achieved significant results in raising both real and proportional number of ethnic minority students in higher education institutions via a range of preferential policy instruments. Despite the overall success, disparities in access to higher education continue to exist; other problems include low quality of minority education and low education outcomes.
Maria Soloshcheva proceeded with the topic of higher education in China focusing on Tibetan Autonomous Region. Maria stressed the importance of providing higher education in two languages: national language - Mandarin Chinese - and language of ethnic minority – Tibetan. The presentation demonstrated problems typical for bilingual education in China: lack of qualified teaching personnel, absence or low quality of textbooks in ethnic minority’s languages, low motivation of ethnic minority students and high level of complexity.
The round table featured a lively discussion about the conflict existing between the need of modernization and integration in multiethnic states, on one hand, and the rights of ethnic minority groups to preserve their language and culture, on the other. The questions discussed included problems of labour migrants in Russia and teaching of the Russian language, the idea of “segregation” in education based on ethnicity, formation of ethnic intelligentsia and the role of education systems. The participants came to the conclusion that the BRICS countries should share their experience in the sphere of education for ethnic minorities.
As the theme of the round table corresponds to the research project of the Centre of Asian and African Studies “Minority vs. Majority in the Historic and Cultural Continuum of Asia and Africa”, the Centre plans to publish a selection of papers presented at the conference in the nearest future.