More than 300 million Chinese people, or nearly a quarter of the country's population, have studied English either as a major course or as an elective subject, said a senior Chinese education official on Sunday in Shanghai.
Speaking at an international workshop of foreign language teaching in Shanghai, Vice Minister of Education Wu Qidi said that the number of people who have received formal learning of the English language from primary schools to higher learning institutes has added up to over 100 million.
Modern foreign language teaching in Chinese schools started in the 1980s. The systematic English teaching program, which runs through primary schools to higher learning institutes, was formally launched in 2000, Wu told experts and teachers from a dozen world-famous language institutes from the United States, New Zealand and Singapore.
The ministry's statistics suggested that the current number of students enrolled on Chinese campuses amounted to 23 million, which is the world's largest group of foreign language learners.
"Foreign language learning is a required course in all Chinese universities, which has been rarely seen in the world's foreign language learning history," said Dai Weidong, a foreign language educator from the ministry.
Experts with the workshop pointed out that it is imperative that China improves the level of English among its population to cater for market demand. Language teaching in China also requires more advanced methods and materials from English-speaking countries.