After nearly two years of negotiations, India and China on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding to introduce Mandarin as an option for foreign language in schools run by India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
Mandarin, which is called ‘putonghua’ meaning ‘speech of the common people’ in Chinese, is widely spoken across China. It’s China’s official language and is also considered to be among the languages most spoken in the world.
As per the MoU signed by Indian Ambassador S Jaishankar and Xu Lin, Director General of Hanban, the official Chinese organisation that oversees teaching Mandarin abroad, China will train 300 teachers in its language universities to make a beginning.
“It may take more than 20 years to promote the Chinese language in India. We will work with patience, confidence and perseverance in the next 20 years,” Xu said.
“The MoU that has just been concluded lays the basis for cooperation between India and China on the teaching of Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language in Indian schools. It envisages the exchanges of academic staff, teachers, trainees, experts, and students. It provides for development of curricula and exchange of educational material and aids. This is indeed an important step forward in the growing relationship between two neighbours,” Jaishankar said after the signing.
“At a time when we are building a strategic and cooperative partnership, expanding our trade and economic cooperation and working together on global issues, it is important that this is strengthened by greater people-to-people understanding,” he added.
The decision to introduce Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language in CBSE schools followed Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal’s visit to China in September in 2010.
In December that year, China welcomed the CBSE's move to introduce Mandarin Chinese in all its affiliated schools and offered to help the initiative by providing training material.
"China expressed willingness to offer support for training the teachers and providing Chinese language training material," a joint statement had said.
According to Xu, it would normally take two years to train teachers as the Mandarin is a language of tones and strokes.
But her ogranisation is looking to offer an intensive course as suggested by UPSC to complete the training in six months so that the course can be introduced at the earliest in the schools