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Wei Zhang, professor, East China Normal University

Honorary professor at DPU, Aarhus University from 1 September 2020.

I am truly delighted to have been appointed Honorary Professor in DPU, and much look forward to fostering links between Denmark and China. I here set out some personal history, in the hope that readers will feel able to reach out for dialogue.

My academic home is the Institute of Curriculum and Instruction (ICI) in the Faculty of Education of East China Normal University (ECNU), Shanghai. The world ‘Normal’ implies a focus on the study of education (like the écoles normales in France), and that has been the principal mission of ECNU since its foundation. However, the mission now has been broadened to include other disciplines, and ECNU is ranked among the premier universities in China.

Shanghai, with a population of 24 million is recognized for its constant innovation and leadership on multiple fronts, and I am proud to be part of it. At the same time, I love the quieter pace and strong inter-personal connections that I find in Copenhagen and elsewhere in Denmark.

My links with Scandinavia began in 2007 when I embarked on MPhil studies at the University of Oslo, Norway. That was eye-opening in so many ways. I transitioned from the crowded and meritocratic Chinese culture to a completely different environment in the space of Northern Europe. The experience led me to consider the insights that I could gain from the field of Comparative Education in which I subsequently specialized.

Following my MPhil in Oslo I briefly worked for the Chinese Ministry of Education before moving to the University of Hong Kong to pursue doctoral studies and comparative work on private supplementary tutoring. This domain is widely called ‘shadow education’. I have recently elaborated in an article entitled Comparative Research on Shadow Education: Achievements, Challenges and the Agenda Ahead.

Much of the agenda ahead involves collaboration across national and cultural boundaries, and this is how I first developed links with DPU. Prof. Søren Christensen is at the forefront of Danish research in this domain, and has a strong comparative perspective from work not only in Nordic countries but also in Singapore and India. Prof. Christensen organized a very stimulating workshop at DPU in August 2019, bringing together not only researchers but also practitioners. I have been delighted to continue collaboration with Prof. Christensen, and together we are preparing a special issue of the ECNU Review of Education about shadow education in Nordic countries. It will particularly interest comparative scholars because the Nordic countries are famous for the egalitarianism and quality of their schooling, but even they are increasingly seeing a need to supplement schooling with shadow education.

My email address is wzhang@ed.ecnu.edu.cn. Do reach out to me if you would like to establish contact. And then I look forward to meeting you in Copenhagen, Shanghai or elsewhere on the planet.