The Alliance Francaise, an organization which promotes the French language and culture around the world, is to open a new school in Beijing and offer courses at the newly-founded schools in the eastern cities of Jinan and Qingdao this year.
Jean-Pierre de Launoit, president of the Alliance Francaise of Paris, said at a press conference Monday that China has become the organization's fifth biggest network in the world with 19,069 members in 2005 and an average increase in student numbers of around 19 percent.
Launoit estimated the alliance will enroll nearly 20,000 students in 2006 and the Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan and Hong Kong branches will become the biggest in China.
Founded in 1883, the Alliance Francaise has stopped at nothing to promote the French language and culture. Now it has 1,074 branches in 136 countries, with a record of 420,708 students around the world in 2005.
The first branch in China was set up in 1953 in Hong Kong, said Alain Rechner, the general delegate of the Alliance Francaise in China, adding the organization's network in China, though rather young, has been developing very rapidly since 2000, with almost one branch opening every year.
Besides Hong Kong, it has another 11 Chinese branches in the cities of Macao, Taipei, Kaohsiung, Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Nanjing, Chengdu, Xi'an, Dalian, Jinan and Qingdao.
According to Rechner, the alliance will not cease its expansion until its branches are ubiquitous in China in accordance with the decision of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Embassy in Beijing, with the cities of Hangzhou, Chongqing, Shenyang and Tianjin listed as future targets.
"In such circumstances, the alliance hopes to play a vital role in training the Chinese students who want to go to France to study and the relevant staff for the 2008 Olympic Games," he said.
As a non-profit organization, the alliance has been supported by the government. All the French presidents have been honorary presidents of the alliance of Paris, with the branches' presidents named by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which together with local governments of France prop up the alliance financially.
In addition to language teaching, the alliance also provides various cultural activities and services such as concerts, picture shows, film exhibitions, photo shows, ad shows, wine festivals, libraries and consultations on travel to France.
Olivier Guyounarch, press counselor of the French Embassy in Beijing, attributes the alliance's success to its combination of being a language school and a cultural media source.
"Some students enrol out of a desire to learn the language, while others are keenly interested in the French culture and art," the counselor said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2006)