Beijing: Seeking greater people-to-people understanding, India and China today signed an MoU to introduce Mandarin as an optional foreign language course in CBSE schools.
Under 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.
China would meet all the expenditure to train the 300 teachers, including their travel and lodging, as a gesture of friendship, Xu said.
The MoU envisages the exchanges of academic staff, teachers, trainees, experts and students, Jaishankar said addressing the gathering after the signing ceremony.
It provides for development of curricula and exchange of educational material and support systems, he said.
Describing it as an important step forward in the growing relationship between the two neighbours, Jaishankar said "the initiative came at a time when efforts are underway to build a strategic and cooperative partnership, expanding trade and economic cooperation and working together on global issues."
"It is important that this is strengthened by greater people-to-people understanding," he said.
The idea of introducing Mandarin in CBSE schools was mooted way back in 2010 by Human Resources Minister Kapil Sibal during his visit here.
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.
Jaishankar, who was also instrumental in introducing Japanese language in CBSE when he worked as Deputy Ambassador to Tokyo, said it took about five years to get it introduced in about 80 to 90 CBSE schools.
In all, CBSE has about 12,500 schools, it would take some time to provide teachers for all the schools.
CBSE currently offers five European and five Asian languages, Jaishankar said.
This is the first time Mandarin would be making an entry into Indian education system in a big way even though it is being taught at universities like JNU in New Delhi.
If Indian school students are provided opportunities to learn Mandarin, their understanding and appreciation of China and its culture will grow enormously, Jaishankar said.
"We will truly be shaping the thinking of future generations. We look forward very much to working with Hanban to make this a great success," he said.
Xu praised India`s soft power in promoting culture as well as its expertise in software technology. India fared much better in promoting its culture, she said.
She said the Confucius Institutes, which specialised in spreading Chinese language and culture, were established in 108 countries, besides having 500 class rooms worldwide.
Xu said currently India has two Confucius Institutes, one in JNU and another Vellore Institute of Technology, and China would be ready to open these institutes in more Indian universities if they so desired.