The Confucius Institute, Nanyang Technological University (CI-NTU) is getting a new director this week.
National Institute of Education (NIE) senior lecturer Neo Peng Fu, 51, will succeed Dr Koh Hock Kiat, 53, who is leaving after nearly eight years as head of the institute, which offers Chinese-language and culture courses to children as well as adults.
When contacted by The Straits Times, Dr Neo, who is also president of the Singapore Society of Asian Studies, would only say that he is reporting to CI-NTU to take up the post on Thursday.
And even before the official announcement on the change, some supporters, lecturers and students at CI-NTU have already expressed surprise at the sudden departure of Dr Koh, an NTU academic on tenure who was a Chinese-language lecturer with the NTU-affiliated NIE before he was seconded to CI-NTU in 2005.
One of them is chartered insurer Liew Sing Hun, 80, a Nanyang University alumnus who initiated the $2 million CI-NTU Fund with a donation of $100,000 in 2007.
He said: "I cannot believe it because Dr Koh has been running the institute well, introducing many programmes including the Nanyang Literature Awards in 2008, the Lien Shih Sheng Youth Chinese Literature Fund a year earlier, in addition to talks and lectures by well known speakers from China and Taiwan since the beginning."
Meanwhile, Dr Koh has confirmed his resignation from the university, and told The Straits Times that he would be joining an international education group with schools in China and the region as one of its chief executive officers sometime next month.
"I have worked for NTU for almost 20 years and it is time for me to move on," he added.
It has been learnt that Dr Neo, a National University of Singapore (NUS) overseas graduate scholar who obtained his doctorate in ancient Chinese history from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2000, was among three candidates shortlisted to succeed Dr Koh as early as in August this year.
He was finally chosen for his knowledge of Chinese intellectual history and Chinese education in Singapore, having written a book on schools set up by the Hokkiens here since the early 19th century.
Dr Neo had taught at NUS' Chinese Studies Department for about 10 years before joining NIE in 2010. CI-NTU at NTU's one-north campus in Buona Vista was opened officially in 2007.
Established jointly by NTU and China's Office of Chinese Language Council International, it is similar to other language promotion institutions like the British Council and Goethe Institut.
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