International cooperation key to promoting TCM

CHINA - Closer international cooperation is needed in the teaching of traditional Chinese medicine, according to industry analysts and insiders.

There is growing global demand for the treatments, and Canada is one of the countries set to hold national examinations for TCM students.

To practice acupuncture, hopefuls will have to pass the national exam and obtain a certificate from a specialist college in the province where they will work, said Du Huanbin, president of the Calgary College of TCM and Acupuncture in Canada.

"The upcoming national exam will better regulate TCM courses in Canada, and it also shows the country's government has realised TCM is a booming market," he said.

At present, only British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta have regulations covering TCM and acupuncture, he added.

Du, who is also a council member of the college and Association of Acupuncturists of Alberta, has 25 years' teaching and clinical TCM experience in Canada, China and Australia.

"There is a growing interest in natural medicine," he said. "In Canada, many people are dissatisfied with the healthcare system, with its long waiting lists and crowded environment."

In British Columbia, for example, acupuncture has been partly integrated into the healthcare system.

TCM is practiced in more than 160 countries and regions but in many places the teaching of TCM and acupuncture faces challenges.

"For instance, culture and language differences can impede the passing of knowledge," Du said.

There is also a lack of proper textbooks, he said.

Both Chinese and overseas TCM educators agree that closer cooperation and more exchanges are needed to promote the treatment and make it more acceptable to the world.

Fu Yanling, dean of the International School at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, said he has considered setting up an association or alliance to gather TCM workers across the country to teach overseas students in English.

Fu invited TCM doctors who speak English fluently from hospitals in Beijing, such as Guang'anmen Hospital under the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, to his classes with overseas students.

The school recruits about 130 overseas students every year - more than 60 per cent from Southeast Asia - with the rest from the United States and Europe.

"For foreign students, it will take them time to study Chinese before they start to learn TCM," Fu said. "But Chinese is only a temporary language tool as most of them will be back in their countries to finish their studies."

Jia Dexian, deputy dean of the International School at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, said she paid a lot of money to qualify to teach TCM in English.

She now has two classes in English a week.

"Although I'm not a native English speaker, years of teaching experience made me better understand the possible main difficulties for foreigners to study TCM," Jia said.

She said for overseas learners, her courses focus more on practical skills. "For many key words, such as the names of herbs and clinical symptoms, I always repeat them many times," she said.

Jia said TCM faces an uphill battle to gain more global popularity.

Ruzanna Beghanora, 23, from Turkmenistan, started a five-year TCM course at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine this year. She said her grandmother is a neurologist who gives acupuncture treatment. "Her needles are old and thick but the treatments really work."