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Education plays increasing role in Sino-French relations

By ZHAO YIMENG | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-06-20 20:17


With a long history of educational exchanges between China and France, cooperation in the education sector is expected to play an increasing role in promoting the development of Sino-French relations, an official with the Ministry of Education stated.

Yang Dan, director of the Ministry's Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges, recently mentioned that China will continue to support Sino-French educational and cultural collaborations and will take steps to encourage, particularly by creating a better environment for more French students and scholars to come to China.

France was one of the first Western countries to engage in educational exchanges with China. In 1877, the Foochow Shipbuilding Institution in Fujian province sent the first batch of government-sponsored students to European countries, including France, to study advanced technology and enhance their skills in shipbuilding and navigation.

During the early exchanges between China and France, French missionaries translated and introduced Chinese books, as well as established French language schools to bridge the cultural gap through language learning.

France was the first European country to establish a chair for Chinese language studies and later included Sinology as a university discipline.

From March 1919 to the end of 1920, nearly 1,800 young students went to France in 20 batches, working while studying to seek ways of transforming China. Among them were Chinese revolutionary pioneers including Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yi.

Currently, over 46,000 Chinese students are pursuing studies in France, while more than 1,500 French students are enrolled in Chinese institutions, according to China's Ministry of Education.

In 2018, the ministry officially included French as a subject in high school education and as an optional subject for the college entrance exams, or gaokao.

Chinese universities have established 148 undergraduate, 34 master's degree and 10 doctoral teaching sites for French language and literature, while 18 Confucius Institutes and a Confucius Classroom have been set up in France.

Meanwhile, the Alliance Française has established French language training centers in 14 cities across China, the ministry said.

In 1921, China established the Lyon Sino-French Institute, initiating a chapter of the Sino-French cooperative education programs.

Currently, there are 69 collaborative academic initiatives among higher education institutes of the two countries, involving 54 Chinese and 67 French universities.

For instance, the Sino-French Engineer School of Beihang University and ParisTech Elite Institute of Technology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University have joint programs that emphasize the cultivation of talent with both general and specialized knowledge.

Today, Chinese courses are offered from primary school to university-level higher education in France. Meanwhile, French language learning is taught at different educational levels in China and covers various educational stages, although the number of students learning French at primary schools is relatively low, according to the ministry.

The latest move to further promote educational collaboration between the two nations is the Sino-French Education Development Forum, which begins on Friday, in Paris.

At the event, top education officials and higher education representatives from both countries will discuss topics such as the two-way flow of students and sign new cooperative agreements among universities on both sides.

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