New York China will help train hundreds of American educators to teach Chinese to high school students, the country's education minister said this week.
The five-year plan - announced Wednesday at the New York headquarters of the College Board, a U.S. organization assisting in the initiative - includes providing more than 150 guest teachers from China to U.S. high schools, and bringing nearly 600 American teachers of Chinese to summer institutes in China.
"Since the reform and the opening up of China, the Chinese economy has enjoyed sustained growth," said Zhou Ji, China's minister of education. The Chinese language "is an important tool for the rest of the world to learn about China and to communicate with the Chinese people," he said.
Chinese language programs already have been launched in Thailand and South Korea, according to Xu Lin, director general of China's office for teaching Chinese as a foreign language.
Xu said the Chinese government would provide $4 million this year to fund the U.S. initiative, but total costs for the five-year program have not been finalized.
Chinese is the world's most widely spoken language, due largely to the country's 1.3 billion inhabitants.
The initiative to teach Mandarin Chinese was created in partnership with the College Board, a U.S. organization that conducts the Scholastic Achievement Test, a college entrance exam, and provides guidelines for college preparatory classes at the high school level.
"At a time when more than 200 million children in China are studying English, yet only 24,000 children in the United States are studying Chinese, this initiative is one whose time has surely come," said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board.
In addition to bringing certified American teachers to China for training, the plan will provide assistance to nearly 300 American teachers seeking state teaching certification in Chinese. It also will bring hundreds of U.S. principals and school superintendents to China.
Zhou also announced that China would be implementing a program to select top students from the country to study at the world's best universities and set up joint research partnerships with universities and scientific institutions abroad.
Among those attending the meeting were Gene Budig, former Kansas University chancellor and senior presidential adviser at the College Board; Tom Curley, Associated Press president; Robert Kerrey, former Nebraska senator and New School University president; Chancellor John Ryan of the State University of New York system; and Harold Shapiro, past president of Princeton University.