China-ASEAN student exchange program continues to surge

Official statistics released by China's Ministry of Education during the fourth China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week, an educational conference conducted in Guizhou Province, showed that from 2008 to 2010, the number of ASEAN students studying in China surged from 34,000 to 49,000, registering an average annual increase of 7,420 students.

The number of Chinese studying in ASEAN member countries grew from 68,000 to 82,000 over the same period of time, increasing by 6,960 students each year.

Liu Baoli, deputy director of the Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges of the Ministry of Education, said that the exchange program has received "high recognition" from educational officials from both China and ASEAN countries at the conference. "More and more youngsters in China and the ASEAN are learning about each others' languages, culture and history," he said.

The Chinese government has reached cooperative education agreements with Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Philippines and signed mutual diploma recognition contracts with Malaysia and Thailand. A total of 31 ASEAN universities signed 135 cooperation agreements with 47 Chinese universities so far.

According to China's Xinhua news agency, China's Ministry of Education has planned to turn the country into Asia's most popular destination for overseas students. By 2020, the number of foreign students studying in Chinese mainland universities, as well as primary and middle schools, is predicted to reach half a million.