- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2003

The College Board, in partnership with the Bush administration and the government of China, announced yesterday the development of a new high school Advanced Placement course to teach students the Chinese language and culture.

“One of our greatest priorities in education should be to provide our young people with a better understanding of the countries and cultures of the world,” said Gaston Caperton, the College Board’s president, at a Capitol Hill news conference with China’s ambassador to the United States, Yang Jiechi.

“Fewer than 50,000 students study Chinese, a language spoken by almost 1.5 billion people worldwide,” said Mr. Caperton, former Democratic governor of West Virginia.

“The study of Chinese and other world languages should no longer be seen as a rarified pursuit but as a necessary component of secondary education,” he added.

Mr. Caperton and Mr. Yang both emphasized growing U.S.-China ties and economic trade, now exceeding $800 billion a year.

“The bridge of understanding and friendship cannot be built without language,” Mr. Yang said, noting that Chinese children for several generations have been taught English as a second language, starting in elementary school.

The U.S. Department of Education is expected to provide some financial assistance for the effort.

This is the first time since 1955, when the College Board started offering Advanced Placement (AP) courses and examinations for high-achieving college-bound high school students, that any new foreign language courses have been added, said Lee Jones, the board’s vice president for kindergarten through 12th grade development.

Until last year, AP language courses were limited to Spanish, German and French. Last June, the board voted in principle to develop four new courses and examinations in Chinese, Italian, Japanese and Russian.

It will take two years to develop the Chinese course, with help from the Chinese Ministry of Education and National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, the officials said.

Mr. Yang said his government would provide textbooks and teachers, who could come to school districts in the United States “for short periods.”

Participants in yesterday’s news conference at the Dirksen Senate Office Building acknowledged that the move to develop the Chinese course was long overdue.

Vivian Stewart, vice president of the Asia Society in New York City, said American high school students “know far too little about people in other countries. We have a huge international knowledge gap.”

In a recent survey, 25 percent of high school students could not name the ocean between the United States and China, she said, and 80 percent “did not know who Mao Tse-tung was,” referring to China’s post-World War II communist ruler.

AP courses are used in the admissions process and recognized for credit by more than 4,000 colleges and universities throughout the world. This year, more than 1 million students took end-of-course AP exams.


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