The meaning of Education and The growth of Women
Why did you decide to become an ambassador for the Inspiring Women initiative?
Well, I like very much the concept of "inspiring women" because it is about breaking social stereotypes based on gender. You know we are all consciously or unconsciously influenced by social stereotypes. People may say, you are a girl, you don't have to study that hard. Or you are a girl, it's natural that you are not good at math. Those are social myths or stereotypes we need to break, otherwise it would limit the potentials of those talented individuals, or talented boys and girls. As I say, in the society, we do have some glass ceilings. We can work together to break that. But also, there are some invisible barriers that you can ask "why not".
What role does education play in empowering women?
Wow, in many many ways. I grew up as a single child of the family. I think the very best lesson my parents taught me was that being a girl or a boy you have to be self-sufficient. You have to have your independent thinking. And you have independent ways of earning your life. Have your own footing in the society. And so education can give you that. Later on I realize the fundamental or the most valuable contribution of education is to make you a more holistic person. Because we are all living in this world with all sorts of limitations, and all sorts of temptations and challenges. But having education is about having the capability to learn, having the capability to form your own opinions no matter how noisy the surroundings are.
Mr. Hu Shi, who was a pioneer of the Chinese modern education, once said that education is not a beautiful piece of clothes, which will make you look good. Rather it is a pair of glasses, which makes you see the world better. I think it is about self-recognition, self awareness but also about the cognition and understanding of the world and being able to seek your own way.
What is your interpretation of lifelong learning?
Lifelong learning is not only a great fun, but also it is a vital surviving skill that every individual needs to master now. I found out that women learn in a few kind of, they think different ways. Sometimes different from men's behavior patterns. One is that they have more holistic view about what knowledge is,the relationship management, our emotional well-beings, and how to raise a child. They are all part of the knowledge that we need to learn. Secondly, we have different skill sets or mind sets among our life. Once you are married, you have children, our mind sets or skill sets can be quite different. So there are different phases of learning.
How has the perception of China overseas changed over the last few decades?
Wow, it has changed a lot. When I was studying in the U.S. for my postgraduate studies in the mid 1990s. People in such a city as New York knew very little about China. They thought you know we are peasants working in the rice field, wearing the straw hats, and didn't have television. When I shared my story in class, saying that I had you know hundreds millions of audiences. They were all astonished. They didn't know that Chinese people could afford television set at that time.
And of course, during the past two decades also, that images or stereotypes, have been greatly shattered because people have so many opportunities to know a real Chinese individual in their neighborhood, or see the news on the different aspects of China. So I think for China, keeping open to the world and being a part of the world is very very important. So I cherish the "One Belt One Road" initiatives to let more people have the opportunities to work with Chinese directly. And I also cherish all sorts of educational exchange programs between China and the world. I think one of the big differences is that nowadays there are more and more overseas students or foreign students coming to study, stay and work in China. And they bring out a much vivid and lively image of Chinese people's life to the world. So I think I am a believer in openness, exchanges, and people-to-people contacts. And I think every individual is the ambassador in some ways.