“Chinese assistance needed to standardise syllabus and train Indian teachers”

Students across India may soon find themselves staring hard at the complicated lines and squiggles of Chinese characters on blackboards, and memorising the four tuneful tones of Mandarin Chinese.

The language may be introduced as part of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum, Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal said on Wednesday.

He told Chinese officials in talks that he was “willing to include Chinese in the CBSE system as a course curriculum,” but needed Chinese assistance to help standardise a syllabus and train Indian teachers.

“I told the Chinese that I cannot do this unless I have standards and there is a test,” he said. “And that cannot happen unless I collaborate with you.”

Mr. Sibal said the CBSE chairman had agreed to the inclusion of Chinese in the syllabus as a language. Chinese officials, too, had expressed interest in collaborating on setting up such a programme, though discussions were only at an exploratory stage and the two countries had not formulated a method to take such an exchange forward. Chinese officials said they had two training programmes for foreign teachers, either training them in China or sending teachers overseas.

Mr. Sibal said language was an important way to bridge the gap between the two societies. “Let us get enough Indians to learn Chinese, and let us get a lot of Chinese trainers in India who will teach and train young people in schools in the Chinese language,” he said. “That is how, ultimately, we will evoke interests in our kids on China. There is no other way to do it.”

He added: “If the argument with Pakistan [as a neighbour] is we have to deal with them, the argument with China is with much greater force. We cannot wish them away... Unless the human resource collaboration is in place, we will never be able to deepen this relationship.”

Mr. Sibal, who visited the prestigious Peking University on Wednesday, called for deepening exchanges between universities, as well as expanding mutual recognition of degrees. For medical degrees, however, Mr. Sibal cautioned that “levels of excellence” had to be maintained.

There are around 8,000 Indian students in medical colleges in China, who are pressing the Medical Council of India (MCI) to recognise their degrees.

“When MCI was here, they made an offer that those [students] can sit for the exam and pass it, but only 1 per cent could pass the exam,” Mr. Sibal said. “So, obviously their levels of excellence are somewhat different.”

He said the government “could not provide answers” for Indian students who came to China “voluntarily” and “at their own risk.” “Medical education requires a certain level of excellence that has to be attained by students,” he said. “As a minister, I do not interfere in that process.”