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Embrace a Better Tomorrow for China-Canada Educational Cooperation
Article by Ambassador Zhang Junsai published in "Embassy"
2011/10/19

It has been a long-standing proud tradition to respect teachers and value education in China. In the past, with their meager income, Chinese parents would not hesitate to squeeze savings out of expenditures on food and clothing just to save money for sending their children to decent schools. With arduous endeavor by the Chinese government over the years, illiteracy rate in China has been reduced from 80% in 1949 when the P.R. China was just founded to the current figure of 4.08%. This year, China's 12th Five-year Plan emphasizes the need to further consolidate the achievements of popularizing the mandatory education. China is striving to develop vocational education and will further improve the quality of high education. In 2012, national fiscal expenditure on education is expected to reach 4% of China's gross domestic product. It has become a key policy for China to promote the sustainable national development of education industry and leverage its modernization level.

With focus on education at home, we are also looking for opportunities abroad. Nowadays, China has distinguished itself as the world's NO. 1 source for overseas students and a major destination for international students. Since reform and opening-up, there have been 1.6 million Chinese students studying abroad, up by nearly 270 times. International students in China exceeded 260,000 in 2010, with annual growth of 18% for the past 6 to 7 years. Moreover, we are also in productive and robust exchanges and collaborations with many other countries in fields of faculty training, Chinese language teaching, and combined scientific research among universities.

The history of China-Canada educational cooperation is long-evolved and well-established in a wide range of scopes and at high levels. China-Canada educational links could date back as early as the 1960s, which actually served as the icebreaker for the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between our two countries. Over several decades, educational departments of both countries, in particular higher teaching institutions have entered into partnerships of various kinds. The China-Canada scholar exchange program, which commenced in 1973, is now in full swing. There are over 70,000 Chinese students now studying in Canada. Canada has become one of the top destinations for Chinese students studying overseas. There are now over 2,000 Canadian students studying in China, which leapfrogged from merely a dozen when the two countries just established diplomatic relations. At the invitation of the Chinese side, a hundred principals and executives of Canadian middle and primary schools visited China in 2009. A hundred Canadian high school students participated in the Summer Camp in China in 2010. During the official visit last July, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird met with Chinese Education Minister Yuan Guiren, where both sides reaffirmed commitments to jointly deepen and expand China-Canada cooperation in education. During the just-concluded China-Canada Strategic Working Group Meeting, both countries agreed to incorporate educational exchange and collaboration as a new area of strategic significance in the overall bilateral relationship.

China and Canada educational cooperation does not only bring in knowledge sharing, but also promotes communications of our two civilizations and cultures, which will is conducive to a more extensive and solid social foundation of China-Canada friendship. Taking the Chinese students and scholars staying in Canada for example, they are now part and parcel of the multi-culture society in Canada. They are serving as the building blocks for expanded cooperation and exchanges in areas like science, culture and so on, which is instrumental to enhance the mutual understanding and friendship of the people of China and Canada.

With China-Canada strategic partnership now on a fast track of development, cooperation in education has huge potential and heralds a bright future. In my view, efforts could be made in the following areas:

Firstly, we should continue to encourage more two-way students exchanges with each other as destinations. China's Ministry of Education has signed Memorandum of Understanding with 9 provinces of Canada on mutual-recognition of academic degrees. The Council of Ministers of Education of Canada recently released an international education marketing action plan for provinces and territories, which aimed at significantly increase the number of Canadian students studying abroad over the next decade, especially in China. Both countries should fully leverage on these favorable conditions and endeavor to expand the scale of exchange students. We should also provide more conveniences to the students in terms of issuing studying visas, ensuring their safety and guaranteeing the teaching quality.

Secondly, we should encourage more partnerships built among universities from both of our countries. International education exchange is an important channel for optimizing education resources and training talents with competitive edge. Currently, there are quite a number of universities and colleges teamed up in joint multi-disciplinary researches. Both China and Canada could further tap into the potential of mutual complementarities and strengthen exchanges in teaching faculty, academic scholars, joint education and research. By doing so, the two sides will be better positioned to deepen the bilateral exchanges and cooperation in the field of education, especially with more shared teaching experience and methodologies.

Thirdly, we will continue to strengthen collaboration in the teaching of Chinese language. Language serves as the bridge for communications and the bond for friendship. There are now 12 Confucius Institutes and 16 Confucius Classrooms in Canada, which provide sound environment for Canadians to learn the Chinese language and culture. This will also put Canadian students who are going to study in China in a better position both linguistically and culturally. Both sides should work hard to create favorable conditions for the Confucius Institutes and Classrooms, making those an effective platform for people of both countries, especially the young generation to compare thoughts, share knowledge, and reinforce friendship.

Fourthly, we should leverage on university resources to conduct combined R&D. Canadian universities and research institutes are leading the charge internationally in fields of environment, energy, telecommunication, agri-food, bio-products, health and life science. We would welcome more higher education institutions of both countries to team-up with enterprises in carrying out R&D projects and commercialization to the benefits of our two peoples. Looking into the future, more importance should be given to exchanges of youth scientists in the high-tech field. Our two countries should always stand ready to work together to establish a shared pool of academic talents, and a shared platform for forging ahead in the new frontiers.

Our cooperation in education includes, but is not limited to exchanges among teaching institutions, academic research team-ups and relevant educational service partnerships. Moreover, it is more a way of people-to-people communication for understanding and friendship. With the increasing number of exchange students in both countries, a better legal, learning and living environment should be created for them, as they are our beloved children. They are the ones to carry on the friendship between China and Canada.

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