Bucking Cultural Norms, Asia Tries Liberal Arts

Bucking Cultural Norms, Asia Tries Liberal Arts 1

Ricky Wong for The Chronicle

Students rehearse a play at the fledgling international division of Peking U.'s high school, in Beijing. Parents say they hope the division's liberal-arts program will help their children learn to think critically.

On a recent fall morning, students filed into a classroom at Sun Yat-sen University, whose leafy main campus hugs the banks of the south-winding Pearl River. They thumbed last-minute text messages, jockeyed for seats near the open windows, and shrugged off drooping backpacks. Their massive Wheelock's Latin textbooks, weighing in at more than two and a half pounds, hit their desks with a deep thunk.

Wait—Latin? In China?

Indeed, these students, some of the