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The Development of the Centre

The current Director, Zongmin Chen, began thinking about developing a language centre in late 2012, as she thought about what she would do after completing her contract at Charles Darwin University (CDU) at the end of 2013. While dismayed at what she saw as poor management of CDU Chinese programs, largely by managers with no expertise in either Chinese or language teaching, she increasingly saw the weakness of its Confucius Institute as an opportunity for a private provider, with well qualified, professional staff, to fill some gaps.

We began more definite planning for the Eastern Road Language Centre in mid 2013, using its current name (in both English and Chinese versions) in documents as early as 3 August. In Chinese, the name 东方之路 'Eastern Road' seemed pleasant, and with the addition of 'Language Centre', the name did not seem to be in use for any other organisation.

To us the metaphor of a road was significant. While the Great Wall is often taken to symbolise China, and while we value the Great Wall Chinese multimedia materials for the study of Chinese, the term 'wall' may suggest a barrier, or worse, something to keep the 'barbarians' out. From our use of pictures of the Great Wall, however, you can see that the top of it can also be viewed as a road or a pathway, if perhaps suggesting an occasionally steep one towards the mastery of Chinese.

One practical issue we needed to resolve before we could start was finding a place to use as a classroom in Darwin. Renting a classroom seemed problematic because of costs for ones equiped with multimedia resources, so we began developing our own small classroom in October. We also registered the business name of the Centre with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) on 13 November and the 'easternroad.com.au' web domain name on 22 November.

Over the next month and a half the Centre developed further developed in China. The Centre's web site was started (it continues to develop further), the use of Skype for teaching was explored, discussions were held with teaching staff in China and elsewhere, and further resources were obtained for the Centre's library. Back in Darwin in the second half of January 2014, the Centre's programs were advertised locally, audio-visual resources for teaching in Darwin were perfected, and the first Darwin-based class was held on Wednesday 29 January.

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A note on CDU's poor management

A fairly public example of this is CDU management's failure to implement its repeated promises that the CDU Confucius Institute will provide online delivery of Chinese programs to remote Australia. This statement was first made by CDU's Vice Chancellor when the paperwork for the Institute was signed in April 2010 (1), and it was repeated by the Confucius Institute's Co-Director Sharon Bell in 2011 (2), at the opening ceremony of the Institute in mid 2012 (3, 4), and in an article on the topic published in CDU's Origins magazine in December 2012 (5). It is still implied by a statement of 'Special focus' on the Institute's web site (6). However, the Institute was slow to start any program at all, and even by the start of 2016 they still have not provided any online program.

  1. CDU celebrates new Confucius Institute 2010, electronic document found at <http://ext.cdu.edu.au/newsroom/a/2010/Pages/CDUcelebratesnewConfuciusInstitute.aspx.html> on 1 February 2014.
  2. 'CDU celebrates great scholar Confucius' 2011, electronic document found at <http://ext.cdu.edu.au/newsroom/a/2010/Pages/CDUcelebratesgreatscholarConfucius.aspx> on 1 February 2014.
  3. 'Hub of Chinese language and culture education to open at CDU' 2012, electronic document found at <http://ext.cdu.edu.au/newsroom/a/2012/Pages/HubofChineselanguageandcultureeducationtoopenatCDU.aspx.html> on 1 February 2014.
  4. 'NT hub for Chinese language and culture education opens 2012' Charles Darwin University enews issue 7, 7 August 2012, electronic document found at <http://www.cdu.edu.au/enews/versions/070812/Stories/chinesehub.html> on 1 February 2014.
  5. 'Confucius Institute to deliver language, culture to NT 2012', Origins edn 2, 2012, p. 5, electronic document found at <http://www.cdu.edu.au/sites/default/files/mace/docs/Origins2-2012web.pdf> on 1 February 2014.
  6. 'Special Focus' n.d., electronic document found at <http://www.cdu.edu.au/confucius-institute/special-focus> on 1 February 2014.
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Eastern Road Language Centre ABN 34 966 793 223
Copyright © 2013-2016 by Paul Black and Zongmin Chen
Version 1.2. Last modified on 15 January 2016
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