The Ministry of Education has recently released a list of recommendations for the "2023 National New Era 'Common People Learning Stars' and 'Lifelong Learning Brand Programmes' Initiatives".

Two individuals from the Open University of China (OUC)—commonly known as the Senior University of China (SUC)—have been recognised as “Common People Learning Stars”. Additionally, three programmes from the OUC have been designated as “Lifelong Learning Brand Programmes”.

Lian Suhua, a student from the SUC's Weigongcun Campus offline class, has been recognised as one of the "Common People Learning Stars" for 2023 by the China Adult Education Association. A retired kindergarten teacher, Lian Suhua has been enrolled at the SUC's Weigongcun Campus since March 2021. Her exemplary academic achievements have earned her the "Outstanding Student" distinction on multiple occasions.

Return to campus, embrace the class

By fortuitous circumstance, Lian Suhua, accompanied by her retired daughter, Zhou Xiaoling, became acquainted with the SUC and subsequently enrolled in its modeling classes. Encouraged by Zhou Xiaoling, Lian Suhua bravely returned to the academic environment, distinguishing herself as the eldest student in the Elementary Modeling class.

In reflecting upon her academic journey at SUC, Lian Suhua remarked, “Despite my dreams of attending college, even into my eighties, socio-economic constraints in my youth prevented access. Nevertheless, my association with SUC reignited that aspiration, facilitating my eventual enrollment in higher education.

Lian Suhua and her daughter enrolled in multiple courses simultaneously. They were introduced to the patient and professional SUC teachers and fellow classmates, many of whom returned to campus post-retirement.

Time spent in class was invariably engaging and transient. Following each lesson, Lian Suhua and her daughter would rehearse their model steps to music in the nearby park. Their diligent approach and zeal for learning profoundly impressed their instructors. As a result, they were invited to participate in the OUC 2022 New Year art performance, which achieved unforeseen acclaim.

Be role models to inspire more people

The silver-haired Lian Suhua has emerged as a prominent student at SUC. Her influence has been so profound that many classmates have enrolled their parents at SUC as well. The narrative of Lian Suhua and her daughter has been adapted into a performance titled I Bring My Mom to School.

In the academic discourse surrounding Lian Suhua and her daughter, an increasing number of individuals have become acquainted with their narratives. Consequently, they have emerged as role models for the students at SUC. Their relentless pursuit of their aspirations and their resilience in the face of challenges have deeply inspired many.

In her leisure, Lian Suhua often read books to children at the community bookstore, an activity that garnered local media attention.

Lian Suhua posits that the act of sharing joy amplifies its enjoyment, as the saying goes. Having acquired valuable knowledge from the SUC and forged friendships with like-minded individuals, she aspires to reciprocate to society and disseminate the affection she has garnered to a broader audience.

Providing emotional companionship to parents is paramount, and engaging with them in academic institutions with no age restrictions has emerged as a novel paradigm for enhancing retirement life. Lian Suhua and her daughter exemplify this innovative approach to leading an active life in one's advanced years.

Endless Pursuits in Learning, Realising Values in Later Years

The educational experiences at SUC have led Lian Suhua to recognise that the pursuit of learning is ceaseless. Through these experiences, she has acquired numerous skills and has grown in confidence.  

Despite the challenges posed by emerging technologies, Lian Suhua actively engaged with smartphones. She acquired proficiency in several fundamental applications, such as mobile payments, online hospital appointment scheduling, and the creation and editing of short videos. These skills not only added considerable convenience to her life, but also provided her with a sense of accomplishment.

Lian Suhua posits that continuous learning provides the elderly with a gateway to integrate seamlessly into the swiftly evolving technological landscape, empowering them to be proactive navigators of their era. These educational pursuits not only infuse joy into life but also fortify the courage to confront aging and embrace innovation. Moreover, such experiences elucidate the art of savoring one's later years with grace and pleasure.

Lian Suhua's journey underscores that advancing age does not necessitate withdrawal from the contemporary epoch. Rather, the seniors are entering into another phase of life imbued with significance.