俞敏洪ASU+GSV峰会演讲：What does Education Mean to Me
美国当地时间4月9日上午，新东方创始人兼董事长俞敏洪受邀在第十届ASU+GSV教育科技峰会主会场发表演讲，演讲主题为"What does Education Mean to Me？"，受到了与会者的关注。
"when we are talking about education, what are we talking about?"现场，俞敏洪从教育的定义出发，通过讲述自己从少年到大学受教育的过程，以及在北大任教和创办新东方的经历，阐释了家庭教育、学校教育等不同阶段的教育如何成就了今天的自己，自己又如何理解教育真正的目标和意义。在他看来，好的教育的标准是世界共通的。
Distinguished friends, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning.
Today I come here to introduce a bit about New Oriental , a bit about me and a bit about education. I think most of you here are doing something for education. But education is the one of the most difficult things to define. If we say hospital is a place to cure people's disease, and medicine is for the goodness and health of the people. But when we are talking about education, what are we talking about? When we look for it in the dictionary, we'll find that the definition is very vague, "education is a process of being educated". And when we find what's "being educated", "being educated is a process of education". So what does that mean?
So human being have made great progress. From Aristotle's time, He insisted that the earth is the center of the universe. And then, the Copernicus came into being, he said that he sun is the center of the universe. And then we came to the Natural law of Newton. And then we came to the theory of relativity by Einstein. So every step of the way we are making progress, we are understanding the world more and more. Coming back to us today is still full of ignorance and stupidity. We are not making much more progress in humanity as a human being. Sometimes, we still insist some wrong ideas in our mind. So what is all education about. Education has existed almost three thousand years. About more than two thousand years ago, we already have those wise people like Plato, like Aristotle, like Confucius, like Buddha, like Jesus, a lot so wise people in this world. But today we are still talking about education. We are still trying to understand what we can do for us, what we can do for our generations, how can we make the world a better place to live in, How can we at most understand each other but not killing each other. That is what we want to do.
I want to take myself as an example. First and foremost, I want to talk about my mother. Everyone has a guide in his or her journey in education. In fact, my mother is a peasant. She cannot read. The immediate question one may ask is: since your mom is illiterate, how can she educate you? What I want to say is that, as a mom, she wants her children to become someone with a promising future. In order for her children to have a good future, she set goals for them. And, that's exactly what my mom did to me. Because in China, life as a peasant can be very hard. Generations after generations, peasants' toils in the fields with back-breaking hard labour. My mom didn't want me to live a peasant life, instead she wanted me to be a teacher. In her mind at the time, that means a teacher in a village. Since ancient times in China, there has been a tradition of respecting teachers. Teachers don't have to do farm work, and often people in the neighborhood give teachers food to eat. So, my mom always thought teachers were well respected. So, she wanted me to be a teacher when I grew up. When I was young, she asked me to read as much as I could, even though she was unable to read herself. From the age of four or five, I remembered she never bought me a toy, but palm-sized comic books -- that's how I started my own life in reading from the age of four or five.
Luckily, I have a sister who is five years older than me. She was in Grade 2 or 3 when I was four or five years old. So, she could read the Chinese characters to me. In this way, I gradually learned a lot of Chinese characters. So, when I was in Grade two, I was able to read novels, including the Chinese classical masterpiece "Water Margin" and so on. From here, I started to enjoy studying. Throughout my life, although I'm not good at mathematics as no one in my family was able to teach me, my Chinese has been very good.
When I was in high school, I encountered some difficulties. However, my mom spared no effort in supporting me to get high school education. When I graduated from high school, China just started reform and opening up. This gave me an opportunity for university education through college entrance examination. I began to work hard to prepare for the exam. It has always been my father and mother's hope that I can leave the countryside and go to college. I studied really hard and took the college entrance examinations three times. I didn't succeed in the first year. Neither did I got it the second time. In the third year, I talked to my mother: mom, can you not let me do farm this year, I want to spend all my time studying. She agreed , and finally I got a very good score and entered the best university in China--Peking University. From here, I embarked on journey that taught me the true meaning for education. It also planted seeds for me to become an educator in the future.
Of course, my parents have many other influences on me. The kindness, hospitality, helpfulness to others are all part of my personality which I learned from my parents. Their perseverance in the face of hardship had a major impact on me and I became a person that's kind, hospitable, and can well be tough in face of difficult times. I believe such qualities are more important than the education I received in school because they lay an important foundation for success.
So come to the conclusions like this. Education is not somebody who is smarter than the one who is teaching you. Education is not the professor teaching you the knowledge that you already know. Education or educators can be somebody who's illiterate like my mother and my father, they cannot read or write, but they teach you something that you should go beyond yourself. Go beyond your mission of this world. Go beyond your limitation and go beyond your natural ability. And you will get new talents, because of education you can help others. They try to push you, so let you have your potential to be released. And you will become more understanding about this world. And become open-minded to let yourself go out of your way to challenge yourself. And you will become more tolerant to go walk far away from ignorance.
Studying at Peking University is a turning point for me. I'm very fortunate that I entered the best university in China, Peking University. I have learned a lot during the five years studying there. First, I read more books because there were 7 million books in the library at Peking University. Now, the number of books should be over 10 million. More importantly, I met a large number of friends at Peking University, including my classmates and my teachers. They taught me not only academic knowledge or subjects, but how to think independently and pursue spiritual freedom. Everyone knows that spiritual freedom and independent thinking are the source of all learning, and the source of thinking through one's own life in multiple dimensions.
So within one time in Peking University, I really learned what is called independent thinking, what is called independent personality, what is called a free mind and a free spirit. So this becomes a new me. It was before that I always think education where you get from university is that you just study your major. If you're studying English literature, then you just study English literature. If you study mathematics, you study mathematics. But later, I think education it's far beyond that. It's far beyond a major, far beyond examinations, and far beyond what the teacher's talking to you. It's all about how you come back to yourself and how you can really become enlightened about this world. And how you can create your own thinking and discussion about this world. So that's one Peking University gives me. So except the academic knowledge is identified in university. I did several things in the University.
Broadly speaking, I achieved three things at Peking University. First, my knowledge base has been enriched and strengthened greatly. In addition to reading academic books of my subjects, I have read hundreds of books on various topics. Second, I made friends with a group of people with truly independent thinking and characters. Through these friends, I learned how to think about my own life independently and how to pursue my spiritual freedom. Many friends not only became friends for a lifetime, but also played a major role in my later career in running New Oriental. Some of them have also become my partners in New Oriental. Third, because my major was English, after two years of study, I gradually had the ability to read English originals. It greatly reduced many obstacles for me to explore the outside world. Interestingly, as a result, we were able to see a bigger world relatively earlier than my peers at the time in the university. I learned to appreciate that any problem can be viewed from multiple perspectives. It also helped me form a habit of thinking in multiple dimensions.
In short, entering such a good university is undoubtedly a turning point in my life. It's also a privilege. The most important thing is to be able to learn from friends that are better than me one way or another, because if you follow someone who is better than you, sooner or later, you become even better.
I remember that Warren Buffett once said, it's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behaviour is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction. There is no doubt that I was actually following that in Peking University. This is not a deliberate choice, but an opportunity given to me by such an environment. Of course, in a certain sense, it is also the result of my personal pursuit.
After my graduation, I remained in Peking University, working as an English teacher. Actually, I wasn't a teacher in the true sense. I was a teaching assistant. I taught English classes to first-year university students, because at the time China required every university student to study English. Students were also required to pass college English test levelled at band 4 and 6. They can't graduate if they fail the exams. So, some graduates of English major remained on campus and became an English teacher. Although this was only an unintentional act of teaching students English, it allowed me to stay at Peking University and I continued to gain more knowledge. The experience gave me two benefits. Firstly, teaching hours were only eight hours a week, leaving me with plenty of time to go to the library to study. Secondly, as a teaching assistant at Peking University, it gave me the access to reach out to many famous professors, communicating with them and asking questions. I learned a lot from these professors.
I had a very good time at Peking University for six years working as a teacher. There was a beautiful campus for me to take a walk, famous professors for me to look for advice and excellent students to communicate with. It was also a very good stepping stone in my personal development. I read a lot of books in six years, and the bookshelves in my small house in Beijing were full of thousands of books.
Later on, students around me and my university classmates started to go abroad to study in the United States. With more and more went abroad to study, I also had the idea to so. I passed the TOEFL and GRE exams and applied for American universities. Unfortunately, none of the universities offered me scholarships. At that time, as a poor teacher, I was unable to afford to study abroad. So, I started to teach as a tutor in a training institution to earn some money in the hope that I have the funds to study in the US. By doing so, I saw a different world outside the ivory tower and found out the training industry in China was very prosperous. I also realised that a large number of teachers were not effective in teaching students. I already gained rich experience in teaching, so I decided to open my own classes. However, Peking University was unhappy about what I was doing in running these classes. I was then punished by the University for tutoring outside. The punishment led me to resign. Because if you were not appreciated in our work, it's better for you to move on. I made up my mind already that if I left Peking University, I would run a training school to use my teaching skills to coach more students, helping them get high scores so that they can pursue a better future. Looking back, the punishment at Peking University planted a seed for my future success.
Leaving the University, I broke away from the path of a teacher who potentially would work my way to professor. I turned myself into an entrepreneur of a training institution. To be precise, I shouldn't call myself an entrepreneur, but self-employed. This a term that carried a negative shade of meaning at the time in China, referring to someone who gave up iron rice bowl and came out of the system to make money.
It is precisely because of the experience teaching at Peking University that gave me a deeply understanding of the huge influence a teacher has on students. For example, if the teacher has been passive and with negative energy , he or she will pass on the negativity to the students. If the teacher is positive, wise, and possess the capability to guide students, he or she will have a major impact on the students'future.
I have been a teacher for many years and have great respect for the profession. At New Oriental, we have nearly 35,000 teachers. I have always asked each and every teacher in New Oriental to bring positive and good influences on students. I have been thinking hard on the question, "What are the most important things as a teacher?" I would argue a good teacher has the following five characteristics:
First, good teachers should inspire students with the enthusiasm to pursuit knowledge and truth. I believe teachers should teach students knowledge and truths, not just to help them pass exams, nor just for the students to remember some knowledge points in order to get into the university. From primary, to secondary and higher education, I think the most important thing for teacher is to instil students with a passion to pursuit knowledge and truths.
Second, good teachers should be able to teach and discuss knowledge in a positive language that stimulates students to think. If the teacher is indifferent to the teaching content, students are unlikely to participate actively. Knowledge can be more meaningful only when you teach in a way projecting positive happiness and the ability to stimulate thinking.
Third, a good teacher pays attention to the all-round development of students. Many teachers are one dimensional in practice, only looking at whether students have solved questions in the classroom, whether students have learned the knowledge points, performed well in exam, or written good essays. I believe in addition to these, it's more important for teachers to care about the development of students' personality, their well-being and morality. They should set examples to students in addition to provide them with advice. I also believe that teaching of knowledge must be based on wisdom. Teaching of knowledge is not to remember the knowledge points, but to internalize knowledge into part of students' own pursuit of life and career.
Fourth, good teachers should encourage students to chase their dreams and future. A good teacher must always help students look into the future. Teachers should cultivate students the spirit to do their best to pursuit their dreams in the face of difficulties, encourage them do not give up, empower them with perseverance and resilience. Because, when we look into the beautiful things in the future, the sufferings and difficulties in front of our eyes no longer make us desperate. They become something that can be used to hone one's will and pushes you to work harder!
Fifth, a good teacher should also be an expert in family education. Teachers should be able to fully communicate with parents. Teachers can greatly facilitate a child's growth in the right direction if they are on the same wavelengths with parents in a child's education. I always believe that qualified parents raise qualified children. That is to say, in addition to the influence a teacher has on the child, it is necessary for them to have influence on the child's family. The cooperation between the family and the school is essential for the good education of the children.
The above five points are a summary of my teaching experience through being a teacher at Peking University and New Oriental in more than 20 years. Now, I will talk about New Oriental.
New Oriental started with a small English training class with only 13 students. After 26 years of hard work, New Oriental has become a comprehensive education system that covers the educational needs between the ages of 0 and 30. Our business includes kindergarten, primary and secondary after-school tutoring, overseas and domestic exam preparations, overseas study counselling, quality education, STEAM education, book publishing, online education and other businesses. We achieved in building such a system step by step. We also have a goal to connect all the business systems and create a platform for children to learn for life with New Oriental. We also aim to make New Oriental a content provider and platform for lifelong learning.
In the course of our development, New Oriental has experienced four stages in its missions. Our first mission is to be a bridge for students to study abroad and a rainbow for the returnees to start their businesses in China. New Oriental started with overseas test preparations which helped many Chinese students to study in the US, the UK, and so on. We help them to return to China to work after graduation. Of course, many Chinese students actually stayed in the United States after graduation, but more and more are returning to China. Later, New Oriental broadened its services in providing a full range of English language learning and we had a second mission in making New Oriental "the place where Chinese learn English". New Oriental continued its journey and entered training in many other disciplines, including Mathematics, Chinese, Physics, Chemistry, etc. New Oriental is no longer a place to learn English, and our mission becomes "Come to New Oriental for Your Dream". Of course, it's a bit vague and broad, so we have the fourth stage in our mission. We hope that through our efforts, we can cultivate a generation of Chinese that possess the ability and quality of "lifelong learning, global vision, independent personality, and social responsibility". As you may see, we are actually gradually entering the core of education because we believe that education should be "whole-person education". The so-called "holistic education" is not only about knowledge, but make student a better human being that can better serve the society. I think the four aspects are quite important, that is "lifelong learning, global vision, independent personality, and social responsibility". The mission is our responsibility to students and we have a long way to go.
New Oriental has done a lot. Yet, in terms of our goals, we have just begun. What we have done to the students in China is far from enough. The emergence of new technologies, whether Internet, artificial intelligence, big data, has had a major impact on all industries. In the field of education, it will have a more significant impact. Today, what New Oriental has to do is not only teach students knowledge or provide teachers with tools and contents, but to combine that with mobile internet, AI and big data. New Oriental has set up a research institute for AI+ education to experiment the combination of cutting-edge technologies and education. We are working hard to come up with products to enable students to learn more effectively and intelligently. At the same time, New Oriental is also actively working with public schools, promoting a smart and intelligent education system for public schools. Such kind of system has been developed for several years and can improve the overall learning efficiency for students in public schools, providing them with solutions.
China also faces the challenge in education equality and balance. China has invested huge amount of money in education in 40 years of reform and opening up. The investment is dozens of times more than it's used to be. However, we still face the problem of education imbalances. Children in rural and mountainous areas are unable to receive good quality of education as children in the urban areas. With the development of technology, such as remote learning, dual teacher, we can do a lot of things in improving education equality in China. I believe the real development of China's future must be the development of education equality through technology, so that children in every corner can receive the best quality education in China, so that every child has the hope to have the opportunity to enter the best universities in the world.
For an educational institution like New Oriental, I believe we must have the ability to serve the country and the society. We should educate students with independent thinking, good personality, sound knowledge and creativity. More importantly, we need to empower students with skills in lifelong learning, global vision, independent personality, and social responsibility. This is our mission today. As for the future of New Oriental, we hope to become an integrator and provider of excellent educational content, system and learning platform in China and the world. We hope that New Oriental becomes a lifelong learning service provider, providing high-tech and products from pre-school to lifelong education. We will also try to explore the combination of technology and education with human instructions. More importantly, we will devote ourselves to promote education equality in China, providing high-quality education services to children in rural areas in China, opening a bright path for their future.
Finally, I would like to say a few things about my personal goals.
First, I hope to contribute to the "whole-person education" of Chinese children and their overall development. Second, I hope to do more in family education. New Oriental has been working in this area for more than a decade and I still feel there's more to do. Third, I hope to contribute to the combination of technology and education. Fourth, I hope to do more to help children in rural areas to get better education. For example, this year I plan to return to a rural high school in a poverty stricken area to work as an honorary principal. I want to make efforts to bring some high-quality resources to such schools so that children in rural areas who may have no hope for high quality education will in one day enter a prestigious university in China or other countries.
For us, when we come into this world, in addition to satisfying ourselves with food and clothing, in addition to caring for our own family members, we always aspire to do something good for human development and social progress. That's exactly what New Oriental is doing. And, that's exactly what I'm doing. We also look forward to working together with other educational institutions and colleagues from the rest of the world to create a better education for the world. We often say that the economy is for today, politics is for tomorrow, but only education is for the future of mankind.
Now New Oriental has a slogan "A Better You, A Bigger World! " Let's become a better you, and then we can leave our children to go to a bigger, brighter world.
现在新东方有一个口号是"A Better You, A Bigger World!" 让我们成为一个更好的自己，帮助我们的孩子走向一个更大、更光明的世界。