On the basis of the Agreement between the Government of Montenegro and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, Bilateral agreement on cooperation between UM and Changsha University of Science and Technology (CSUST), University of Montenegro has on the proposal of the Embassy of the Republic of China in Montenegro, at the beginning of 2015, reached the decision on the establishment of Confucius Institute at the University of Montenegro. The two universities are partner institutions in the establishment of the Confucius Institute. The umbrella institution, which monitors and supports the work of the Institute, is the General Administration of the Confucius Institute – HANBAN, which is part of the Ministry of Education of China and has its headquarters in Beijing.
According to Dr. Milena Đukanović, the director of the Institute on behalf of the University of Montenegro, who works as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering as well, Confucius Institute at UM, aims to promote Chinese culture and language, to improve understanding of China to the locals, to connect all individuals and institutions in Montenegro that are in any way dealing with Chinese language and culture, as well as other activities of cultural, educational and economic cooperation between our country and China.
She speaks in the interview for web portal MNE magazin, among other things, about the contents of the Institute, the results of the previous work, its plans…She also reminds us that ,,little steps lead to big results, or according to Confucius – Transport a handful of earth everyday and you will make a mountain.”
– Today I can say that we have successfully started to build our Chinese mountain of prosperity and future in Montenegro – says our interviewee.
What are the results you are particularly proud of so far?
– Confucius once said that a thousand miles journey begins with one step and within the Institute we have made at least a few so far. We are proud of the great interest of Montenegrin citizens for this distant country and its rich culture. We can confirm this through a large number of students who are attending the Chinese language course. There is also a growing number of people who want to visit China. One hundred of Montenegrin citizens got that opportunity solely in the organization of the Institute through study visits, competitions, summer schools and scholarships.
In what way are Chinese language courses are taking place and who are the attendees?
– With the approval of the Ministry of Education of Montenegro, the courses are organized in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. The activity is not only based in Podgorica, but extended to Niksic, Cetinje, Budva, Bar, Kotor, Tivat and Herceg Novi. Courses for students and adults are organized at the University of Montenegro, as well as at the University of Donja Gorica for their students. Teachers are professors and volunteers sent by the Ministry of Education of China, who mainly come from a partner institution from the Hunan Province – Changsha University of Science and Technology. The interest in Chinese language and culture does not know the boundaries – our youngest attendant was a three-year-old boy, while the eldest one was over 70.
How many students are there annually and how long it takes for a person to learn Chinese language?
– We have about 700 students annually and we motivate them to take a national standardized test for Chinese language skills – HSK and HSKK, which is recognized everywhere in the world and which we send to Beijing, where they review and score them. After that, we organize a ceremony at the Institute and it was a custom so far for the current ambassador of China in Montenegro to deliver diplomas.
Every course has a particular number of signs and words that need to be learned. After the highest level of the course – HSK6, the students would have known more than 2000 signs and this test is usually taken by graduate students of Chinese language from the region or course attendees who have already been learning Chinese language for several years.
What can a visitor find at the Confucius Institute, apart from Chinese language courses?
– Within the Confucius Institute, there is the so-called Chinese Corner, which includes a Chinese library, a corner with Chinese tea, as well as creative workshops in which literal, artistic and other competitions are designed for all our students. The Confucius Institute often organizes Days of Chinese film, lectures on Chinese medicine held by visiting Chinese speakers, tai ji course, wei qi course etc. The Institute has supported numerous projects that were realized in Montenegro in the field of film, fashion, photography, robotics, table tennis, etc.We are always trying to support the creative ideas of our people who know and want to make a connection between Montenegro and China and who have a need to show how China looks from their perspective.As successful examples, I would like to name the fashion collection of Marina Banović called ,,Tiananmen” that was presented during the Montenegro Fashion Week. Also, a photo exhibition of prof. Saša Popović, entitled ,,China – portraits of landscape”, that left a strong impression not only on our fellow citizens, but also on the ambassador of China to Montenegro and his colleagues.
Do you collaborate with other Montenegrin institutions? Do you exchange experiences with other Confucius Institutes?
– We have a very good cooperation with the ministries of education, foreign affairs, science, culture and numerous embassies and cultural centers of other countries. As a successful examples of cooperation, I would like to single out the festival ,,Silk road” under the slogan ,,Harmony for peaceful development”, organized by the Yunus Emre Institute – Podgorica and the Azerbaijan-Montenegro Cultural and Economical Centre.
Confucius Institute has over five hundred branches on the world map and every year that number is increasing. It has a very good cooperation primarily with institutes from the region and with their directors. My colleague – the Chinese director Luo Chunxia – and I will be able to talk more about joint projects at the European Conference of Confucius Institutes which is to be held in Sofia from 23rd to October 25th.
Every year in December, the General Conference of all Confucius Institutes is held, where, alongside the director of the institute, there are also rectors and vice-rectors of the universities on which these institutes were founded. This year, it is scheduled to be held from December 4th to 6th in the city of Cheng, Sechuan Province.
What are the key plans you will insist upon in the upcoming period?
– In the upcoming period, we want to achieve even stronger cooperation with our partner institution from China through scholarships for student and staff exchange, which will lead to a number of scientific and research projects through existing 16 plus 1 funds. The delegation from Changsha University of Science and Technology will on the occasion visit the University of Montenegro in mid-November. It is also planned that the Chinese language is offered to students as an elective subject on a limited number of faculty units, for which we can determine that graduates can benefit from on their future jobs (construction and shipping companies, tourist organizations, etc.).
Photo: Private archive