Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, has reiterated the importance of education to this island???s economic development.

She made this observation on Wednesday, while addressing a ceremony in honour of 11 Barbadian students who received scholarships from the Government of China at the Chinese Embassy, Golf View Road, Rockley, Christ Church.

According to Senator McClean, since the establishment of diplomatic relations with China 37 years ago, Barbadian students had received a number of scholarships and training opportunities in various academic disciplines.

She also revealed that in June, Government had accepted additional training seminars in agriculture and tourism.

???Barbados strongly shares China???s views that it is through people-to-people contact that cultural and other exchanges are most possible and present the greatest opportunities for building lasting relationships based on mutual understanding, respect and tolerance.???

Senator McClean alluded to the establishment of the Confucius Institute at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) as a worthy addition to the already recognised curriculum of Mandarin at the UWI.

She added: ???Indeed, Barbadians stand to benefit immensely from the construction of the Confucius Institute. Our people will become more aware of the culture, language, politics and society of a people who even though are geographically miles away, are now more readily accessible thanks to the interaction with native speakers and through the use of technological advancements.???

She urged the students to make the most of this enviable opportunity and pointed out that there will be ???obvious differences in the language, communication and culture???.

???I understand that in some cases there will be a year???s language immersion component prior to undertaking your core curriculum. You will also contend with changes in weather, food, transportation and a range of other aspects of your existence as students. However, I implore you to see these as opportunities rather than seeing them as stumbling blocks,??? Senator McClean underlined.

She further stated: ???Also take to heart that there is strength in numbers, as you will come to learn of other Barbadian students currently undertaking academic pursuits in China. Seize this time to view yourselves as true ambassadors for our nation as bridge builders, who have the fitting opportunity to span thousands of miles to share Barbados ??? its people, culture, traditions and legacy ??? your homeland.???

Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador, Wang Ke, congratulated the students on their achievements and disclosed that at the end of 2013, 41 Barbadian students had obtained Chinese Government Scholarships for academic studies. This year, the number of scholarships increased from four to 11, allowing more Barbadian students to learn Chinese language, acquire modern knowledge and understand the oriental country in depth.

???China and Barbados are good friends and partners. The mutual beneficial cooperation and friendly exchanges between the two countries, has much potential in the field of trade, investment, tourism, renewable energy, culture, sports and education,??? the Ambassador said.

The 11 scholarship awardees are Akeem Parris, Renata Alleyne, Ashley Bryan, Ricardo Francis, Philippe Jones, Brenden Gonsalves, Alexandria Payne, Shanda St. Hill, Akilah Femi Waithe, Tyrone Yearwood and Antonio Alleyne.

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