More than 4,000 people sat the first national exam to select volunteer Chinese language teachers (VCLTs) for China's international Confucius Institutes on Sunday.
The exam held in 29 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions was sponsored by "Hanban", the executive body of the Chinese Language Council International (CLCI), a non-governmental and non-profit organization affiliated to the Ministry of Education (MOE).
The exam covered the basics of the Chinese language, culture, contemporary life, cross-cultural exchanges, and foreign etiquette.
Those who pass would be granted an interview to decide if they were eligible for overseas assignment, said Qiu Xiaoping, director of the International Cooperation and Communication Division of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education.
"Previously, we held different exams to select volunteers for different countries. From this year, we will hold a general exam at national level each year," Qiu said.
Those selected would be recruited into the reserve force of the VCLTs and dispatched to overseas Confucius Institutes or classes.
"We will dispatch the first group of volunteers in September," Qiu said. "The Hanban and foreign affairs units will provide living necessities for them."
In Beijing, more than 1,200 candidates, mostly new college graduates, participated in the exam and competed for about 400 positions. "Becoming a volunteer for Chinese language teaching is a good option for recent college graduates," Qiu said.
"One year of overseas teaching experience can help graduates make a better career plan and land a good job after they return."
The volunteers will be given an allowance of 800 to 1,000 U.S. dollars a month, under the program. Their air fares, medical insurance and accommodation will also be paid by the Hanban.
To date, almost 5,000 VCLTs have been sent to 42 countries.
More than 40 million foreign nationals around the world are learning the Chinese language, with 3,000 schools in 100 countries.
In response to the increasing popularity of Chinese language learning, the Hanban started to open overseas Confucius Institutes in 2004, drawing on the experience of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain in promoting their national languages.
Confucius Institutes are non-commercial institutions for teaching the Chinese language and promoting Chinese culture abroad. Confucius Institutes teach Chinese, train teachers of Chinese language, provide teaching resources, hold exams and grant certificates, give advice on Chinese education and culture, and carry out cultural exchange programs.
So far, 326 Confucius Institutes or classes have been launched in 81 countries. A total of 44 universities have set up Confucius Institutes, and more than 150 universities in 40 countries have applied to the Hanban to open a Confucius Institute or class.