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Chinese Language, Culture Incorporated into US Educational Program

Representatives from China and the United States on Friday announced the creation of an Advanced Placement (AP) course and examination in the Chinese language and culture, saying the first AP Chinese examination would be held in 2007.

"People-to-people contact between China and the United States is important for increasing mutual understanding, fostering friendship, and expanding bilateral relations," Chinese Ambassador Yang Jiechi said at a joint news conference with College Board President Gaston Caperton at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on the Capitol Hill.

"The bridge of understanding and friendship cannot be built without language," he said. The creation of the AP Chinese course "will undoubtedly expand bilateral economic and trade relations, and strengthen China-US exchanges and cooperation in all fields," Ambassador Yang said.

Caperton thanked China for helping to create this new college-level course for American high school students. "It is our hope that this partnership will become an educational bridge to China. The study of Chinese will not just connect (American) high school students with the language but also with the literature and rich history of China," he said.

Vivien Stewart, vice president of education at the Asia Society, said the AP Chinese course would help American students close a huge international knowledge gap. She cited research showing that less than 40,000 American students study Chinese, a language spoken by almost 1.5 billion people worldwide. In contrast, the majority of students in China learn English.

Yan Meihua, director general of China's National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, expressed China's willingness to assist in the development of the AP Chinese curricula, test design and professional training.

Caperton said an AP Chinese task force would be formed in 2004 and charged with creating an outline for the course and drafting exam specifications. The first AP Chinese course will be offered in the fall of 2006 and the first administration of the examination will take place in May 2007.

The College Board's AP program allows students to pursue college-level studies while they are still in high school. Based on their performance in AP examinations, students can earn college credits, advanced placement, or both. In 2003, more than one million American high school students participated in the AP program, each student taking one or more of the program's 34 advanced placement courses.

(Xinhua News Agency December 6, 2003)

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