China and the United States kicked off a new Chinese language and culture initiative in New York on Wednesday by signing an agreement of cooperation in promoting Chinese language and culture programs in the US.
Witnessed by Chinese Education Minister Zhou Ji and his delegation, Xu Lin, director-general of China's National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Hanban) and Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board of the US, signed the agreement at a ceremony.
The initiative will address the critical shortage of Chinese-language teachers in the US, support schools wishing to begin new Chinese language programs, promote professional development for teachers and the production of high quality instructional materials, officials close to the signing ceremony said.
They added that the initiative will also provide students with a pipeline to the College Board's new AP Chinese Language and Culture Exam.
Praising the initiative as "good for US students, good for the US, and good for the world in the 21st century," Caperton said the College Board was pleased and enthusiastic about the new initiative between the two institutions.
He expressed appreciation for Hanban's support in helping American students learn Chinese, discover the vibrant Chinese culture, and participate more fully in the cultural exchange between the two countries.
Noting that when more than 200 million children in China are studying English, only 24,000 in the US are studying Chinese, Caperton pledged efforts to help thousands of US schools that want to offer their students a 21st century choice.
On his part, Zhou urged education institutions from all over the world to join the efforts for international promotion of the Chinese language. He praised the College Board and universities that are hosting Confucius Institutes for taking a significant first step, and expressed the hope that more institutions will follow.
In a 2004 survey, nearly 2,400 American high schools expressed an interest in offering the Advanced Placement Chinese course in 2006-2007, but many of these schools are handicapped by a shortage of qualified Chinese teachers. To help ease the shortage, the new initiative will temporarily place 150 guest teachers from China in American classrooms over the next three years.
To ensure program continuity when the guest teachers return to China, the initiative also enables the College Board to support nearly 300 American teacher-candidates in their efforts to attain state certification.
The plan's partners had already moved forward with a number of the projects outlined in the agreement even before its official signing.
In an effort to support the ongoing professional development of teachers already in the classroom, 60 American teachers of Chinese will benefit from intensive, three-week-long summer institutes to be held at Beijing Normal University and Shanghai International Studies University this summer.
These programs will expand to include more teachers and involve others in the coming years. Nearly 600 American teachers of Chinese will have access to these programs over the next five years.
In addition, some 400 American educators will have the opportunity to travel to China during the summer months to become familiar with China's people, language, culture, and educational systems. They are expected to better support the growth of Chinese programs in their own districts.
The College Board is a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the association is composed of more than 5,000 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations.
(Xinhua News Agency April 20, 2006)