The China Education Expo 2012 kicked off yesterday in Beijing, attracting more than 500 overseas institutions and education bureaus from 38 countries and regions across the world, with new national faces stepping into the world's largest recruitment market.
The number of national pavilions presenting their countries' academic opportunities reached a record 21, including educational powers like Canada, the US, Britain, Germany and Spain, said Zong Wa, deputy secretary-general of China Education Association for International Exchange.
The annul expo wraps up its Beijing show on Sunday and moves on to tour six other major mainland cities (including Shanghai next weekend) before ending in Guangzhou on November 3.
"China is a potential market. We don't want to miss it. We've seen a steady growth of Chinese students coming to study in Spain," said Jenny Mendoza, chief market analyst with Spain's economic and commercial office in Beijing.
Even though Spain is mired in the global financial crisis and the number of institutions it brought to China this year - more than 20 - is a little bit smaller, it doesn't limit Spain's desire to embrace more Chinese students in the future, Mendoza said.
Institutions from the UK and the US both numbered more than 80. And Canada, a longtime hot destination for Chinese students, had the most exhibitors with 94. The expo held at the China Exhibition Hall filled two floors, with schools from Canada and the US occupying the entire second floor.
About 20 regional education bureaus from Canada came to attract Chinese students for primary and high school education.
"Our schools already have a large number of Chinese students and there is not enough room. I think in the future we are going to select students, as opposed to recruiting anyone who applies," said Shawn Silverstone, assistant manager of Surrey Schools international education department.
As this year's country of honour, Germany brings more than 30 institutions to Beijing, including some elite universities such as Heidelberg University and Technical University of Munich.
"Chinese students are the largest group of international students in Germany. We welcome more young Chinese come to our country," said German Ambassador to China Michael Schaefer at a news conference Saturday afternoon, adding the number of Chinese students in Germany has reached 23,000 last year.
Zhang Zongliang, a student majoring in German in his fourth year at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said he was surprised by the passion shown by institutions after consulting about 10 German booths.
"Everyone is waving hands at me and saying 'Come to join us'," said Zhang.
According to the Ministry of Education, the number of Chinese students studying abroad has seen an annual growth rate of 19.19 per cent, jumping from 118,500 students in 2005 to 339,700 in 2011. The number is expected to reach 400,000 this year.
The booming recruitment market has also attracted universities from Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia, even though many Chinese have little knowledge about these countries.
"Although we don't have many Chinese students now, we want to have them in the future to help us build an international education culture," said Michal Fedak, deputy director of the Slovak Academic Information Agency.
While acknowledging that only 15 Chinese students studied in Slovakia during the academic year 2010-2011, Fedak said Slovakia has kept coming to China for education promotion for several years and will continue doing so in the future.
ORT Braude College, an engineering college from Israel, came to China for recruitment for the first time both for the country and for the college.
"We just want to have connection with China. We have no Chinese students now," said Samuel Gazit, a mechanical engineering professor at Braude College.
Last year Japan had 60 schools represented, but with the current tension over the Diaoyu Islands between China and Japan, there are no Japanese institutions at the expo this year.
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