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An interview with Zha Jing on "consultation" program at PKU

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Peking University, Mar. 26, 2011: The consultation program at PKU on students' academic performance is an exploration in support of students' studies, says Zha Jing, a senior staff member of one of the three offices that initiate the work.


A trial of the program that arranges consultations for a targeted group of students began in last November and will be rolled out throughout the university. The trial took place at the Health Science Center (PUHSC) and Yuanpei College. The program is initiated by the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Educational Administration, and the PUHSC Office of Education.


Following is the transcript of a recent interview with Zha Jing, deputy director of the Office of Student Affairs.



Reporter: What's the original intention of the consultation program?


Zha Jing: It is the educators' obligation to care for every student and create an environment for their healthy growth. It's a pity that a few PKU students encounter such difficulties in their studies that they cannot complete their credits or even drop out. Long-accumulated, comprehensive, and complicated reasons result in poor academic performance which cannot be solved by students themselves. The university should extend a helping hand and mobilize all possible resources to give those students concern and guidance and carry them through. This is the original intention of the program.


The consultation work means when students encounter difficulties hard to overcome by themselves and even teachers engaged in the students' work, the schools and departments should invite teachers from teaching and educational administration, counseling, and logistic service or even specialists off campus to make a comprehensive analysis and scientific assessment of their academic performance and prepare support programs with a clear target.


It should be pointed out that the consultation means neither control nor punishment on students. On the basis of the current working mechanism at PKU, the consultation aims to further integrate resources and increase spending to improve our service level for students and help them get through. The key is to combine educational management and care, addressing psychological and practical problems, overcoming academic difficulties, and solving other problems to show our care and love for students. For the students to be consulted, it provides an important opportunity to communicate with their teachers and improve their own plan for studies.


Reporter: We are aware that the original intention and key of the consultation program is to care for students. What kind of students will benefit from the program?


Zha Jing: The focus is mainly on students encountering difficulties in their studies, and also on all the students in need of care and help. Based on experiences, we classify these students into 10 categories: students with radical thoughts, psychological fragility, poverty, registration changes, eccentricity, Internet addiction, job difficulties, serious illnesses, and discipline violations.


We've noticed that some students have radical thoughts or bigoted character, encountering difficulties in interpersonal communication, social adaptiveness, and their studies. They cannot analyze and handle their problems in daily life in a rational and manifold way. For example, they cannot get on well with roommates, cannot handle love setback in a calm way, and cannot adapt to career life after graduation. Extreme events happening on campus like Ma Jiajue's case have taught us bitter lessons. All of the problems cannot be solved just by an instructor or a single unit. Instead, it needs multilateral consultations, the counselors of which could include parents and security departments on campus. Some extreme events may be avoided if we give the students psychological guidance and emotional care to solve practical problems as early as possible.


Besides, some students with a retiring character have difficulty in adjusting to group living, or live outside school and stay away from the group. We are concerned about their security because of their less communication with their classes, schoolmates, and the schools or departments. For example, a postgraduate student renting a house outside school had an accident a few years ago. These students need our concern.


Reporter: We heard that the trial program is near its ending. Judging from so far, what is the effect?


Zha Jing: After careful study, we decided to go on the trial for a half-year in the representative PUHSC and Yuanpei College last November. Corresponding working mechanism and schedule for active work were set up at the beginning of the trial. An Individual Support Program was made on the basis of comprehensive diagnosis, object verification, and coordination between faculty/staff and other relevant offices. Then we conducted the follow-up deep consultation and all-aspect support program. Some students overcame difficulties and returned to the orbit of studying.


We find it necessary to build the consultation program after a series of successful examples because it's satisfactory in efficiency and effectiveness in solving problems. For instance, a student addicted to the Internet asked for consultation and one more year study because he changed his major and could neither finish the credits nor graduate within the due time. After the consultation among teachers and staff at his department and the Office of Educational Administration, we approved his application for one-year delay according to the department's educational affairs policy and provided regular counseling. At present, the student studies in good condition and is expected to complete his academic program. Another student with a psychological problem had to quit school because he failed exams and encountered difficulties in his studies. We consulted with all sides, took into account his special physical condition, made a personalized program, and helped him make up the missing courses. Now he returns to the normal condition with the help from the teachers and fellow students, which is welcomed by the student as well as his parents.


Reporter: What to do next after the trial?


Zha Jing: At present, the PUHSC and the Yuanpei College are summarizing the pilot experience as scheduled carefully. We will research and formulate extension plan on the basis of the pilot work. The consultation program is one work program to solve the problems for our students.


It's now at the exploration and trial stage and we'll further carry out research on the conceptual and operational problems. We think it is a more positive, active, and humanized educational management than the simple punishment of students. The practice also needs support from both teachers and students. Therefore, next we'll listen to the opinions of teachers, students, and the society in a more active way to do better for the students' growth and success. Please contact (+86-10) 62760278 if anyone has any suggestions.



Extended Reading:

PKU to introduce "consultation on students' academic performance"

College plan "not aimed at radicals"







Translated by: Zhang Hao
Edited by: Su Juan
PKU News (Chinese)