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Jan. 30, 2004

Hong Kong Foundation to fund U.S.-China Center for Study of Effective Schools at MSU

Contact: Yong Zhao, College of Education, (517) 353-4325; or Victor Inzunza, College of Education, (517) 355-1826,


EAST LANSING, Mich. � The Hong Kong-based Sun Wah Education Foundation today donated $5 million to Michigan State University to fund a joint center between U.S. and Chinese scholars for the study of effective K-12 schools.


The United States-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence will team MSU and other professors and Chinese scholars to research and develop effective models of education that integrate strengths of both Eastern and Western practices.

"For many years, I have provided financial support in various forms to schools and universities in China," said Jonathan Choi, president of the Sun Wah Group and chairman of the Sun Wah Education Foundation. "However, I have come to realize, to paraphrase an ancient Chinese saying, that I have been trying to give people fish, instead of trying to find a way to teach them how to fish.


"In business, when we find a successful model, we try to replicate it. I hope this center will identify, study, and thus come to understand effective educational practices in China and the United States through empirical and theoretical research."

MSU President Peter McPherson hailed the partnership and the foundation's commitment to students and learning.


"In creating this center, the Sun Wah Education Foundation has made a wonderful investment in the future of education in both China and the United States," McPherson said. "We at MSU believe strongly in engaging in research and development with partners throughout the world. The new center is a perfect example of that collaborative spirit, and I expect that what we learn about great schools and teaching through this partnership will impact the lives of students in both nations."


The center will be headquartered at MSU and directed by Associate Professor Yong Zhao of the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education. Zhao said the center will build on the strong international and research focus at MSU's College of Education.


An essential goal of the center is that research yield effective models that can be implemented in schools in China, and that inform educational reform efforts in the United States, he said.


"The research will be more systemic in nature rather than specific to a subject like mathematics or science," Zhao said. "We want to look at the whole school and what works in terms of the school ecology, including administration, teachers and teaching, curriculum, parental and community involvement, etc.


"Great schools are widely recognized for their standards of excellence and for achieving those standards. We want to know as much as we can about these schools in China and the United States."


Gilbert Choy, chief executive officer of the Sun Wah Education Foundation, said work is already underway to establish working relationships with professors at Beijing Normal University. Once effective models are established based on research findings, Choy said that the center will pilot test the models in Chinese schools with the goal of eventually making them widely available in both countries.


The center will be overseen by a four-member board composed of two representatives appointed by MSU and two by the Sun Wah Education Foundation. Choi will serve as the initial chairman of the board.


The Sun Wah Group is a $1.2 billion conglomerate based in Hong Kong with businesses in seafood and foodstuffs; real estate; financial services; and infrastructure, technology, and media. The group's activities span China, Macau, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Singapore, Canada, Europe and the United States.


The Sun Wah Group is the flagship of the Choi family, which has donated millions to charitable projects. As president of Sun Wah Group and chairman of its foundation, Jonathan Choi has long had an interest in educational initiatives. He serves as economic adviser to the president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and also serves on the boards of directors of Fudan University, Nanjing University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In addition, he is an adviser to the Chinese Economic Research Center at Peking University.

[Editor�s Note: Jonathan Choi, Yong Zhao and Gilbert Choy will be available for interviews at 10:50 a.m. today at Erickson Hall on the MSU campus. Contact Victor Inzunza at (517) 355-1826 to arrange interviews.]