China's President Xi Jinping (R) applauds with Britain's Prince Andrew after unveiling a plaque during a Confucius event at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London, Britain Oct 22, 2015.(Photo/Xinhua)
Classrooms make big contribution in helping the world know China
President Xi Jinping praised the role Confucius Institutes have played in promoting cultural exchanges with foreign countries as he attended the UK Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms Annual Conference and unveiled the 1,000th Confucius Classroom plaque for the Hautieu School in Jersey. [Special coverage]
Giving a more cultural touch to his first state visit to the UK, Xi attended the event that groups hundreds of leaders of the Confucius Institutes and teachers from the classrooms in the UK.
After hearing a group of primary school students sing a Chinese song and a university student recite a poem written by him in the 1990s, Xi said that language is the key to understanding a country, and that the Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms are important platforms to help the world know China.
He said he is glad to see so many students are learning Chinese in the UK.
Recent heated discussions about the different teaching approaches in China and the UK are revealing different educational mindsets, he said.
Started in 2004 by the Chinese government in an effort to help Western students learn Chinese language and culture, Confucius Institutes are affiliated with Western universities, and generally have a specific focus, such as culture, business or the arts.
The UK now has 200 Confucius Institutes and 126 Confucius Classrooms, more than any other country in Europe, and stands second only to the United States as a host country.
Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who accompanied Xi to the event, said it was a pleasure to support the institutes and classrooms because "China is a very, very important country".
"By learning the language, understanding the culture and civilization, we can make better use of our skills in order to work together in the future," he said.
The rapid expansion of the Confucius Institutes in the UK is playing a significant role in not just helping Western students learn Mandarin but also by promoting cultural understanding between China and the West, experts say.
One example is the Business Confucius Institute at the University of Leeds, which was established in November 2012. The institute not only offers the standard range of language and culture classes but also helps introduce UK businesses to their counterparts in China through events and networks.