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China-UK Educational Exchange Program
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In an effort to promote Chinese studies in UK schools, the two countries have reached an agreement on increasing the number of exchanges of students and teachers over the next five years.


Starting from next year up to 500 British secondary school pupils will be invited annually to summer schools in China to gain a better understanding of the country, according to a Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday at the UK-China Meeting on Chinese Learning and Teaching in Beijing.


Each year approximately 100 British head teachers and education officials will also be invited on one-week visits to China with a view to introducing Chinese studies into their schools, says the memorandum. The content of the document was agreed by the British Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), a Chinese government body coordinating language-teaching efforts in other countries.


In addition, Hanban will increase the number of Chinese language assistants to Britain by 20 percent under the existing British Council scheme and send Chinese teacher trainers to act as mentors. About 35 assistants were sent to Britain last year on the scheme.


British teachers of Chinese will be provided with two to four weeks of training in China as well, according to the memorandum.


Lid King, national director for languages at DfES, who was on his first visit to China, said the efforts were being made to meet a "growing" demand in Britain for education in China's language and culture.


"French, German and Spanish remain the top three second languages in Britain but Chinese is gaining popularity because of the country's culture, history and rapid economic growth," he said.


DfES is promoting the teaching and learning of foreign languages including Chinese in British primary and secondary schools so each child could have the opportunity to study a foreign language and develop an interest in the cultures of other nations, according to King. "So more language teachers and materials are needed," he said.


DfES and Hanban will jointly undertake research and collect information to determine the precise nature of the demand for Chinese language learning in Britain, says the memorandum.


Zhao Guocheng, Hanban's deputy director-general, said China is willing to help promote the language and culture in Britain, and would like to "share British experiences of teaching English as a foreign language and of language testing."


An annual schools-based competition on Chinese culture and language linked to major events such as the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai Expo will also be developed to attract more British students, the memorandum says.


Both countries emphasized that the memorandum is subject to Ministerial approval.


(China Daily July 20, 2006)

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