Recently East China Normal University has been officially declared to be one of the 36 universities supported by the state under the name of “First-class university Construction, Category A” within the national project of “Double First-class”. We may need some time for getting used to this odd title, but the main message implied in it is both clear and important: ECNU has reaffirmed itself as one of the major research-oriented universities of the country.
Since its establishment in 1951 with the mission of cultivating highly qualified teachers for high schools of the New China, ECNU has always been, in the hearts and minds of its professors and administrators, an “abnormal” normal university with a high level of scientific research and a large number of academic achievements. In the process of developing ECNU as a top research university, we frequently refer to the idea of the modern university summarized by our founding president Meng Xiancheng— Creativity (in learning), Character (for nurture), and Community (to serve).
Cherishing the goal of a world-class research university, I would also like to remind my fellow ECNUers of the university’s official motto: “Seek Truth, Be Creative, and Live up to the Name of a Teacher”.
The reason I wish to bring up the official university motto is not that I want to reinforce the identity of ECNU as a “normal university” as the motto implies. I like this typically “normal university” motto because the spirit expressed in it, in my view, can provide us with special resources for our striving for a world-class research university.
Firstly, I want to emphasize that one of ECNU’s major contributions to society on the whole is that every year hundreds of, though no longer thousands of the young people graduated from ECNU become teachers in some of the best high schools all over the country. Benefiting from the scientific resources at ECNU as a prestigious research university, future teachers educated here are more likely to have a better career prospect than their counterparts nationwide.
Secondly, I should point out that education in general at ECNU can benefit from the professional support provided by our prestigious School of Education, as well as from the teaching ethics cultivated by our glorious tradition of taking teaching as our central mission and students as our focus of attention. As a result of this fact, I would dare to say, every one of our students can receive high-quality education on our beautiful campuses.
Thirdly, although China is quite close to the stage of “universal high education”, college graduates, especially those from universities like ECNU, still belong to the category of “elites” or “pioneers” that accounts for a small portion of the whole population. It is true that nobody would really deserve the title of “elite” or “pioneer” if she or he despises any of the less fortunate people who have yet to attain this level of education, nevertheless anybody who has received a degree in higher education should have a sense of purpose to lead the people by serving the people, or more exactly, to serve the people by leading the people in all the relevant aspects of our everyday and professional life.
In this context, I would argue that being an ECNUer not only means that we should “pursue what we have not been taught and practice what we are going to teach” when we stay here as a teacher or a future teacher; being an ECNUer, in the more important sense, also means that we will do our best to “live up to the name of teacher” in whatever we do, and wherever we are.
Source: ECNU Circle
(Note: Tong Shijun is the Chairman of ECNU University Council.)