In a big round of applause on Monday afternoon, 31-year-old Merita from Indonesia led her 28 classmates to the rostrum of a meeting hall at Guangzhou Pre-school of the Normal School in this capital of south China's Guangdong Province.
The 29 women, aged between 18 and 37, were the first batch of overseas pre-school teachers who finished one-year language training course in China, received green-covered diplomas from Liao Peizhi, president of the Guangzhou normal school. They will return their homes in Indonesia within this month and teach Chinese at local kindergartens.
Winning a reward of full attendance at the school, Merita said, "I was grateful that I've been provided with such a wonderful opportunity to learn Chinese in a systematic way. Most of us hadn't taken such a course before."
"We cherished a hope when we came to Guangzhou, and are leaving it with great satisfaction," she added.
Amid the growing global Chinese language fever, overseas Chinese teaching tends to shift its focus from middle school and college students to children at primary schools and even kindergartens. Demand for Chinese-language teachers is rising worldwide. The shortage of the teachers exceeded 20,000 in Indonesia alone.
China has set to narrow the gap between supply and demand in a diversified way.
"Initially, we mainly dispatched domestic teachers to other countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, to provide a 30-day training course," said Zhao Jinling, deputy director with the Guangdong Provincial Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.
Since 2001, six such courses have been launched in Indonesia, in which nearly 3,000 local Chinese-language teachers have been trained, according to Zhao.
The training approach, nicknamed "going-out method", has matured in the past few years. Since the end of 2004, the Chinese Government has begun to establish non-profit institutions for promoting education and cultural exchange in Chinese language around the world. Among them a dozen or so "Confucius Institutes" have been built in the Republic of Korea, the United States, Sweden, France and Uzbekistan.
Moreover, China has also recruited overseas students to learn Chinese for more than one year in the countries. "To provide more long-term language training has been set as our goal," Zhao Jinling said.
Merita was in the first batch beneficiaries of this effort. She and the other 28 of the group not only learned Chinese in the course, but also studied psychology, teaching skills, music, art, sports and computer science. The course was almost the same as that for local pre-school students. Currently, most of them speak Chinese fluently, and 60 percent of them scored more than 80 in a language test.
According to Merita, some of her classmates will directly teach at primary schools or kindergartens when they return Indonesia, and some others will help train more Chinese-language teachers.
Zhao Jinling said the Chinese-language training program will be available for 30 students in Guangzhou and Jiangmen for the coming September. "Starting from 2006, the program will have 240 trainees not only from Indonesia but also from the Philippines and Thailand," Zhao said.
According to the National Leadership Team for Overseas Chinese-language Teaching, 500 Chinese volunteers have taught Chinese in 30-odd countries.
Zhao Jinling said last year Guangdong sent 20 volunteers to teach Chinese abroad, and the figure would reach 50 this year.
(Xinhua News Agency July 13, 2005)