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Beijing to Host World Chinese Conference

China will hold a World Chinese Conference in Beijing from July 20 to 22. The conference aims to give more weight to teaching Chinese as a foreign language and to offer better services to students in this regard.


Vice Minister of Education Zhang Xinsheng made the announcement at a press conference sponsored by the State Leading Group of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (SLGTCFL) on Wednesday. The conference is sponsored by a number of central government departments including the SLGTCFL, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance.


The theme of the conference is "Development of Chinese in a Multicultural World."


Over 300 people are expected to attend the conference. Foreign participants include political leaders, senior education officials, officials responsible for Chinese language teaching policies, as well as presidents of prestigious universities and renowned sinologists. Domestic participants include chief officials, experts, and scholars from provincial and municipal authorities of education and China's top universities.


Certain awards will also be presented during the conference including The Plate Award to be presented to overseas Confucius institutes.


Other related events include the eighth International Symposium on Chinese Teaching, Symposium on Overseas Sinology, Exhibition of Chinese Language Teaching Materials from China and Abroad, the fourth Chinese Bridge - Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students, International Summer Chinese Language Program/Summer Camp for University and Secondary School Students, and a China Culture Tour.


According to Zhang, the Chinese government encourages Chinese citizens to learn foreign languages and requires every primary, secondary or university student to acquire foreign languages skills; and at the same time, it gives high priority to the promotion of CFL teaching. In addition, it plans to provide better services to foreigners learning Chinese.


In 2004, the State Council approved the "Chinese Bridge" Project. This project involves the establishment of "Confucius institutes" overseas, and the development of multi-media audio-visual teaching materials such as "Chengo Chinese" and "Great Wall Chinese."


Under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Chinese Ministry of Education and the US Department of Education, from 2003 onward, the two countries have been cooperating on the E-language Learning System Project (ELLS). The Chinese side has developed the "Chengo Chinese" courseware, which includes lessons for US middle and high school students over the Internet. This courseware has been tested by almost 150,000 students from over 20 states in the US, and has been well received, said Zhang.


"Great Wall Chinese" is characterized by its unconventional teaching method. It provides customized learning solutions, Zhang added.


Further, the creation of the AP (Advanced Placement) Chinese Language and Culture Course is an indication that Chinese language teaching has become part of the US mainstream education system. The AP course will start in 2006 and examinations will officially be offered in 2007. Throughout the US, some 2500 schools are already planning to offer the AP Chinese course. China will assist the US College Board with a teachers training program and provide tailored teaching materials.


To provide better Chinese language teaching services overseas, Zhang outlined the following responsibilities his ministry has been tasked with for 2005:


1. Establish the building standard and mode of a "Confucius Institute" and put in place the management and evaluation mechanisms.


2. Work out the teacher training plan for both domestic and overseas programs for the next five years, improve the current training mechanism and compile standardized training materials; send abroad 1,000 volunteer Chinese teachers and 100 government-funded Chinese teachers.


3. Evaluate, select and promote excellent Chinese teaching materials from home and abroad; formulate a teaching material development plan and feasible promotion plan for the next five years.


4. Reform the HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) system to cater to the needs of overseas candidates and to increase candidate numbers. According to Zhang, a total of 151 examination centers have been set up in 34 countries. The number of test candidates reached 90,000 last year. Other test categories such as "HSK for Business" will also be developed, he added.


(China.org.cn June 15, 2005)

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