After China’s Cultural Revolution and the closing of public institutions of higher education, the nation was in want of professionals with demonstrated proficiencies — even after universities and colleges reopened. The Education Bureau created a new kind of credential: the Self-Teaching Diploma Exam. People could earn diplomas by taking a test, but without training, only 6 percent passed.

Hu Dabai spent years recovering from the severe burns she received in an accident. She and her husband, Yang Zhongyao, were educators, but her condition left her unable to stand for an extended time; she couldn’t return to the classroom. But she wanted to make a difference and had excellent public relations skills.

The couple created an interactive training program for the Self-Teaching Diploma Exam — a departure from the traditional lecture. Hu persuaded top-notch teachers to join them and publicized the training with the promise of a refund for students who failed the exam. In their first cohort of students, 87 percent passed.

Read more about how the couple’s efforts led to the creation of China’s first private university in Darden Professor Alec Horniman’s article “Chinese Educators’ Drive and Charm Created a Private University,” in the Darden School of Business/Washington Post “Case in Point” series.

Professor Horniman teaches in the Darden Executive Education program Leading for High Performance, in which participants deconstruct their most complex organizational challenges and build a plan to help their businesses thrive.

About the Faculty

Alexander B. Horniman

Horniman has wide-ranging expertise in the fields of business ethics, developing personal leadership, executive behavior, managerial psychology, diverse work groups, managing personal and organizational change, and motivating to increase performance.

He is a senior fellow at Darden’s Olsson Center for Applied Ethics and served as founding director of the center —... Learn More