Students’ pick of languages is starting to shift
More high schools in China are offering Russian courses as student interest in the language grows in secondary schools, particularly since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed, educators said.
The Russian program at Jianwen Foreign Language School, a high school in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, attracted only 24 students when it was established in 2011. But interest has grown quickly, especially after the initiative was proposed in 2013, according to Li Guangming, the vice-principal.
“The program at our school has almost 250 students,” he said. “About 80 graduates of the program were accepted by higher education institutions in Russia. ... Many others went to domestic universities.”
Huang Mei, director of the School of Russian Language and Culture at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said Russian used to play a role at high schools in China like English does now.
“Although not pervasive in today’s China, there have been signs in recent years that Chinese people’s interest in learning Russian is reviving,” she said. “One of the key reasons is that implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative has facilitated close exchanges and cooperation between China and Russia, as well as with other countries like Kazakhstan and Ukraine, where the language is also used.”
In Hubei province, No 14 Middle School of Wuhan, which encompasses high school grades, offered Russian courses between 1985 and 2002, but canceled them as interest waned. But in Septem- ber, the school, working with the University of Moscow, started an experimental Russian language class and planned to recruit 40 students.
“But to the surprise of the school authorities, more than 400 students and parents attended the introductory meeting and showed a willingness to join the class,” said Li Yanxia, director of the school’s admissions office. The more parents knew about the Belt and Road, the greater the support for the class.
Students admitted to the program take Russian for two years at the school. They then attend a one-year preparatory course at the University of Moscow before taking the university’s entrance exam, she said.
Li Guangming of the Jianwen Foreign Language School said that the graduates who are now studying at institutions in Russia are at such schools as Saint Petersburg State University, Repin Academy of Fine Arts, and Emperor Alexander/St. Petersburg State Transport University.
“With the relationship between China and Russia getting closer and the demand for people who can speak Russian growing, I believe more young people in China will develop an interest in the language and decide to study it,” Li Guangming said. “The Russian language may again become one of the major foreign languages learned by Chinese students in high school.”
Students of Russian at Kaiqu Middle School in Huaibei, Anhui province, converse with two Russian teachers from Irkutsk State University in April.