The People’s Republic of China gives special importance to people-to-people contact and cultural exchanges with Bangladesh for which it launched the first Confucius Institute in South Asian region in Dhaka in 2006, says Dr Zhou Weiwei, a director of Confucius Institute.
At present two Confucius institutes are in operations at two universities in Bangladesh, she informs, adding that the first Confucius Institute in Dhaka was established in 2006 in collaboration with North South University and the Chinese Yunnan University.
‘It is one of the first CIs in the world and the first in South Asia. We initiated the institute first in Dhaka in the region as China considers Bangladesh as an important friend. We want to work closely with Bangladeshi institutes. Our experience of working here in Dhaka is very pleasant,’ Dr Zhou says.
‘We provide Chinese language and culture training programmes for the students, professionals and businessmen. We also offer CI scholarships to the Bangladeshi students at renowned Chinese universities like Beijing Language and Culture University, Yunnan University, Xiamen University and others,’ she mentions.
‘It has some regular programmes such as professional language teaching, from beginning to a higher level, some different cultural courses covering poetry, traditional Chinese art, classic literature, martial arts, music, calligraphy and others. We also organise special programmes celebrating traditional Chinese cultural festivals,’ she says.
Following the structure of UK’s British Council, France’s Alliance Française, Germany’s Goethe-Institut and others, China initiated Confucius Institute programme in 2004 with the aim to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally.
It facilitates cultural exchanges in co-operation with local affiliate colleges and universities around the world. The programme is globally overseen by the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a foreign language.
Though the Confucius Institute programme was initiated many years after such centres operated by the foreign missions in Dhaka, the institute at NSU, she claims, plays a significant role in cultural exchange programmes in Bangladesh.
It has won a lot of awards and honours like Confusions Institute of the Year in 2016 at the 11th Global Confucius Institute Conference held in China, she mentions backing her claim.
Following its success, another Confucius Institute was opened at Dhaka University in 2016.
Confucius Institute at NSU, the biggest institute in Dhaka, also partners with the other Bangladeshi institutions in all levels of education throughout the country.
‘Currently, it has such partnerships with the University of Rajshahi, Asian University for Women, International Islamic University in Chittagong and Bangladesh International Tutorial,’ she says.
The youths, specially the students and professionals working with different organisations, come to learn Chinese language and culture at the Confucius Institutes for developing their skills on Chinese language.
‘Many of these students have plans to do business with China while several others plan to work as translators with the Chinese business firms. To encourage them, we organise Chinese bridge competition, a contest of proficiency on the Chinese language and also invite them to participate at youth camps in China. Chinese festival celebrations and photograph exhibitions are held based on the annual plan,’ she says.
She tells New Age that the Confucius Institutes are also trying to expand their activities in academic researches.
‘The institute has initiated Bangladesh-China Research Centre where researches will be conducted on Chinese history, culture and other issues related to the strengthening relationship between China and Bangladesh,’ she says.
Confucius Institutes, she hopes, will move on with all the previous glory to serve as a platform of cultural exchange between China and Bangladesh and contribute to Chinese language teaching in this wonderful land Bangladesh.
‘In this regard,’ she says, ‘Confucius Institute at NSU is developing new language and cultural courses at the university level. We want to strengthen the academic exchange and collaboration between YNU and NSU. We are now planning to initiate CI+ project, which has been planned by Confucius Institute’s local director Dr Md Mahmudur Rahman Bhuiyan.’
‘We are developing the platform,’ she mentions, ‘to build the linkage between two countries and universities, such as student exchange, faculty exchange, joint research and so on. We hope to create more values beyond the language teaching and learning in future.’
Besides the activities of the Confucius Institutes, the Chinese embassy in Dhaka has some special projects for strengthening the bond between Bangladesh and China in several fields including culture and education.
Such programmes accelerated after the visit of the Chinese president Xi Jinping to Bangladesh in 2016, said Zha Mingwei Chinese embassy’s attaché (culture section).
‘Besides Confucius Institute scholarships, we have several other scholarship programmes for the Bangladeshi students in Chinese universities. Last year 160 Bangladeshi students got scholarships to study at undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD programmes. We also offer short courses for government officials. And in partnership with cultural affairs ministry in Bangladesh, the culture and tourism ministry of China now operate several cultural exchange programmes,’ Zha mentions.
In partnerships with local public and private institutes, the Chinese embassy and other institutes have been holding art exhibitions, films screening exhibitions, celebrations of Chinese traditional culture and others.
‘We organised Bangladeshi art and cultural shows in China and got good responses from the Chinese people,’ he says.
Zha mentions that recently a reality show on Chinese language was organised on RTV and several documentaries were screened on other TV channels such as Banglavision and ATN Bangla to reach the wider range of people of Bangladesh.
‘We want to work more closely with Bangladeshi youths and cultural organisations in the coming days by promoting the Bangladeshi scholars, artists, filmmakers, musicians and others in Chinese research centre and several other art and film exhibitions,’ he says.
‘For connecting with more people, especially with the youth in Bangladesh, we will simultaneously organise live stage shows, TV programmes and use other platforms,’ Zha informs.
Claiming China’s huge experiences in preserving and promoting traditional art and heritages, Zha says that the Chinese government in future will help Bangladeshi government to preserve and protect its tangible and intangible cultural heritages.
Both Zhou Weiwei and Zha Mingwei say they have been living in Dhaka for several years and like people and culture of Bangladesh.
‘People in Bangladesh are very friendly. I love Bangladeshi culture and music, especially baul songs,’ Zha says.
Zhou said she loves the Bangladeshi people a lot as the students who go to the Confucius Institute for training are very friendly and warm-hearted.
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