Brexit offers chance of even closer ties

Updated 2018-02-01 13:47:01 China Daily

Staff interact with children at Hatching Dragons, the UK's first Chinese-English nursery school.

The United Kingdom's departure from the European Union could open a door for China to widen its scientific research collaboration with Britain, according to a diplomat in London.

Speaking ahead of Prime Minister Theresa May's visit to China, Wang Yongli, minister counselor for education at the Chinese embassy, said China and the UK could become natural partners in collaborative research.

"Brexit would mean the UK will lose funding from the EU for high-quality research, so it is important for research leaders to leverage the science spending with an emerging new science power, such as China," Wang said."China has significantly increased investment in science over the last decade. When scientists ... work together, the results are proven to be more impactful than when each country works alone."

Wang also said cooperation on education and exchanges has been a highlight of bilateral relations, with collaboration touching upon a wide range of areas, across the whole education spectrum.

Annual exchanges now exceed 1.5 million, and more than 170,000 Chinese students now study in the UK's universities, colleges, and schools.

Wang said the increased interest in Mandarin in the UK during the past decade has been overwhelming. He said the expansion of Confucius Institutes and the smaller Confucius Classrooms played an important role.

There are 29 Confucius Institutes and 148 Confucius Classrooms in the UK, with more than 160,000 registered students learning Mandarin.

More than 600 British primary and secondary schools also offer Mandarin courses.

According to the British Council, the number of people taking Mandarin exams at the General Certificate of Secondary Education level increased by 92 percent during five years, to 4,044 students in 2016.

Nick Gibb, the UK's minister for school standards, said a high level of fluency in Mandarin will become increasingly important in the competitive global economy.

"As part of our drive to extend opportunity, we want to give young people the opportunity to study the language and to acquire fluency in both spoken and written Mandarin," he said.

In 2016, the British government launched its 10-million-pound ( million) Mandarin Excellence Program.

Another highlight of Sino-UK education collaboration in recent years is the teacher exchange program for math teachers, which has seen more than 700 teachers from both countries participate.

In 2016, the UK's education ministry announced it was spending 41 million pounds to support the "mastery" approach to math teaching in 8,000 English primary schools with the aim of bringing English students up to the standard of their Asian peers.

Wang said the first phase of the exchange, which ended this month as the last group of Chinese teachers went home, was well received in both countries. He said the second phase is likely to be on the agenda for May's visit.

The fifth-annual UK-China High-Level People-to-People Dialogue was held in the UK last December, part of attempts to promote mutual understanding and trust between the nations.

The two countries also signed an agreement to jointly develop world-class education partnerships in Jiangsu province under China's "Double World-Class Project", which seeks to create a number of high-ranking national universities by the end of 2050.

With more than 275 degree-level UK-China joint initiatives, Jazreel Goh, the director of education China at the British Council, said: "The UK has achieved the top position in China's transnational education market, in terms of the number of such partnerships."

These initiatives are enabling an additional 65,000 Chinese students to study toward UK qualifications in China.

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