MORE pupils will be given the chance to live and study in China for a year thanks to a £754,000 investment by the Scottish Government.

The funding for the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools Scholarship Programme (CISS) was announced as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met some of the current scholars in Beijing on the first day of her visit to China.

A further £700,000 has been allocated to Scotland’s National Centre for Languages at Strathclyde University, where CISS is co-located. This funding builds on that awarded in previous years.

Applications for the study programme are open to sixth-year pupils in Confucius Classroom Hubs around Scotland. So far 70 Scottish students have been awarded scholarships.

The First Minister said: “Scotland and China have long-standing links which we want to strengthen and one of the most important ways in which we can do that is through education. The work of the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools has helped to engage more of our young people in learning about the culture, history and language of China, through the growing network of Confucius Classrooms. It was fascinating to meet some of the current Confucius scholars – including two pupils from my former school – and hear about their experiences in China.”

CISS and the Tianjin Education Commission have developed the scholarship programme which provides places for a number of Scottish students to study and live in China for one year. In 2017 and 2018 there were 22 places and it is hoped to extend the programme further for 2019.

There are now 22 CISS classroom “hubs” in secondary schools across Scotland aimed at stimulating the learning and teaching of Chinese language and culture. A number of primary schools are also now involved.

Four specialist hubs at the Scottish Schools Football Association, the Royal Conservatoire, Scottish Opera and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (Edinburgh Zoo) are being launched this year. The hubs will do outreach work with schools to blend learning about Chinese culture and language through their area of expertise. The hub at Edinburgh Zoo is the first specialist Science Confucius Classroom Hub in the world.

However campaign group Free Tibet has led calls for a rethink of Scotland’s Confusius Institutes saying educational authorities should be cautious about influence from China given its human rights track record.