In a bold bid to experiment with western education methods, a Chinese college modeled after American liberal arts institutions receives its first class of students this fall, the New York Times reports. Xing Wei college, a privately run institution in Shanghai, is the first of its kind in China.

The college represents a divergence from traditional Chinese education, which is widely criticized for emphasizing rote memorization and stifling creating thinking. Weiming Chen, a Harvard-educated investor and founder of the college, said he wanted to cultivate a crop of students who could think in new ways.

“We want students who have the courage to pursue their desires, to know what they really want; that’s different from the traditional definition of top students,” he told the South China Morning Post.

In 2005, Chen bought the campus of a cash-strapped college located 20 minutes from Pudong International Airport. He and others spent 500 million RMB renovating the site into a campus, turning to American colleges like Yale and Amherst for inspiration…

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staff and wire services reports