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China and UK on same page over education, says minister

By Wang Mingjie in London | China Daily UK | Updated: 2018-02-02 04:17

China has emerged as a key education partner of the United Kingdom, Britain's schools minister said amid Prime Minister Theresa May's three-day visit to China, during which education deals were agreed worth around 550 million pounds.

Nick Gibb, minister of state for school standards of the United Kingdom.

Nick Gibb, minister of state for school standards, said Britain is keen to do business in the field with a strong economy such as China.

"One of the key drivers is to make sure that our young people have language skills, and cultural knowledge about China," Gibb said. "A high level of fluency in Mandarin will become increasingly important in our globally competitive economy."

The UK has announced a slate of education policies with a strong focus on China in recent years, including the Mandarin Excellence Programme, the UK-China Maths Teacher Exchange, and the Generation UK-China campaign.

During May's visit, she has announced a new package of exchange deals, partnerships, and commercial contracts that bolster Britain's already strong education relationship with China.

The British government is running the 10-million-pound Mandarin Excellence Programme, which aims to have 5,000 secondary school pupils in the UK fluent in Mandarin by 2020.

Twenty-three schools with a record of Mandarin teaching were chosen to start the pilot program, in which children study Chinese for eight hours per week, with four of those hours being in class and four at home.

Gibb praised the success of the program and said there will be a strong appetite to expand the program and increase spending if it is successful.

"We will expand the number of schools beyond 37, but they will be capable of teaching Mandarin and have got the right teachers in place," he added.

Improving English pupils' math skills will remain a priority and there will be an extension of the Shanghai math teachers exchange program, ensuring more teachers visit each other's countries during the next two academic years.

On May's first stop during her China trip, in Wuhan, she announced an extension of the UK-China Maths Teacher Exchange for primary schools for a further two years, taking it to 2020.

The math teacher program began in 2014. It involves teachers from England visiting China, and teachers from China visiting England for two to three weeks, enabling them to learn from each other's education systems and for English classrooms to introduce techniques that have been successful in China.

There have been four rounds of exchanges so far, involving more than 700 teachers from both countries.

Gibb said, the mastery approach will continue to be the teaching model to which math teachers in England aspire, but he thinks the exchange is beneficial in both directions.

"I have sensed that Shanghai teachers have gained a huge amount by being in England; learning how English primary schools operate and learning about our culture," he said. "I think it's been a mutual exchange of learning from one another and it's a very beneficial project."

By 2023, around 11,000 students will have learned the East-Asian style of math teaching in English schools thanks to the exchange program.

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