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UPDATED: October 7, 2013 NO.18 MAY 2, 2013
Higher Learning
Educational forum draws state and provincial education leaders from China and the United States to discuss best practices
By Corrie Dosh

"Nowhere is this imperative for engagement more important than between the United States and China. As China's influence on the world economy and politics grows, the need to increase understanding between the people of the United States and the people of China grows as well. International partnerships and exchanges in education play a key role in the U.S.- China relationship, providing the context and underpinning for dialogue and negotiation on a wide range of economic, political and social issues," he added. "Having more leaders in China in a wide range of fields who have studied in the United States, and more Americans in leadership positions who speak Chinese and have direct knowledge of the country and its institutions is crucial."

In 2010, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially launched the 100,000 Strong Initiative, an effort to increase the numbers and diversify the composition of American students studying in China. The initiative was first mentioned by President Barack Obama during an official visit to China in 2009 and was officially launched by Secretary Clinton during the First High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange, which she and State Councilor Liu Yandong co-chaired in Beijing in May 2010. The U.S. Department of Education has a formal working agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Education, which has included joint projects on language learning, math education and vocational education.

China also has strongly supported the expansion of educational partnerships. In 2012, China provided 13,500 scholarships for its students to study overseas, including over 6,000 for graduate students. Since 1978, when Deng Xiaoping began to send students abroad in large numbers as part of his modernization effort, nearly 2.64 million Chinese students have studied outside of China according to the Ministry of Education. Today, China is the largest supplier of students to universities in the United States with roughly 194,000 Chinese students on American campuses in 2011-12, according to data from the Institute of International Education.

Li Ji Helen, author of The Stories of an Only-Child's Mom From China to America and delegate to the Boston forum, said academic study is secondary to the cultural experiences achieved in exchanges for students and educators. One key difference between the two countries is the teacher-centered methods of China vs. the student-centered educational model of the United States. Many students have trouble adjusting to a foreign lifestyle, and need support once they arrive.

"The reality totally changes when they come here," Li said.

Blueprint for the future

While educational exchanges and sharing best practices play key roles in shaping the next generation of globalized students, it is clear that a broad organized effort is needed.

"We need to have a sustainable model if real progress is to be made. Many one-off local exchanges are springing up, but given the scale and the importance of the U.S.-China education collaboration, we need an infrastructure that will take us from a model of somewhat unconnected annual meetings to an adequatelysupported, goal-driven and permanent state and provincial and national-level organization," said forum participant Mark Oettinger, General Counsel of the Vermont Department of Education, adding that there are successful models that have developed over the past two decades in the legal and judicial context between the United States and Russia.

Interest in Sino-American exchanges is at an all-time high, as China's rapid economic development and rising global influence will "define the 21st century, as U.S. ties to Europe did in the 20th century," said U.S. private equity tycoon Stephen A. Schwarzman, founder of Blackstone Group. Schwarzman announced plans to raise $300 million, including a $100 million personal gift, to establish a Rhodes Scholarship-type program with Tsinghua University. The endowment will allow 200 students a year from around the world to take part in a one-year master's program at Tsinghua. "China is no longer an elective course, it's a core curriculum," he said in Beijing.

The author is a contributing writer to Beijing Review, with reporting by Huang Wei, from Boston, Massachusetts.

Email us at: liuyunyun@bjreview.com

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