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China, US Sign MOU on Education
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Chinese and US students will have greater access to educational exchange programs as the two countries have agreed to expand and promote educational cooperation.


Further cooperation in higher education, language learning and teaching, and primary and secondary education were highlighted in a memorandum of understanding signed by education ministers from both countries on Thursday.


Margaret Spellings, US secretary of education, described the memorandum as "historic" at a breakfast panel discussion hosted by the China Chamber of Commerce on Friday in Beijing, the last stop of her East Asia tour following Tokyo and Seoul.


She said the United States is "deadly serious" about promoting educational cooperation and exchanges with China. Her delegation, consisting of 12 US university presidents, is the first ever high-profile delegation of US college and university presidents to China.


"It is even more compelling that on this first ever delegation, China is one of the firsts of the first, as our trip starts from East Asia," Spellings said.


Education cooperation and exchanges between the United States and China have been developing rapidly in recent years. More than 63,000 Chinese students are currently studying in the United States, while there has also been a rise in the number of US students studying in China.


A recent report from the New York-based Institute of International Education, one of the world's largest international education organizations, shows that 6,389 US students came to China in the 2005-06 academic year, up 35 percent year-on-year. The report also lists China as the only Asian country among the top 10 popular destinations for US students to study abroad.


Spellings said she is pleased with the numbers but not satisfied. "US students do want to come to study in China, and we need to help them do that as well as to help Chinese students to come to our country."


Both Spellings and Dina Powell, US assistant secretary of state, who also led the delegation, emphasized that the United States will further streamline the visa application process, making it easier for foreign students, including those from China.


"We've been working hard on that issue, and the problems have been diminished," she said.


Last year, the United States issued a record high of 600,000 visas to overseas students, among which about 19,000 were given to Chinese students. Meanwhile, more than 97 percent of qualified student applicants obtained their visas within a matter of days.


On Friday, Premier Wen Jiabao met with Spellings and her delegation in Beijing.

 (China Daily November 18, 2006)

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