ROME, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- An estimated 17,500 Italian students are studying Chinese in high school, according to the ninth report by the National Observatory on School Internationalization and Student Mobility unveiled at the Italian Ministry of Education earlier this week.
The findings indicate more and more Italian students like learning Chinese. The new report was based on a survey by the Interculture Foundation and Ipsos market research firm on the state of Chinese instruction in the Italian school system and on how Italian 14 to 18-year-olds perceive China.
It showed that 0.67 percent of Italy's high school population is studying Chinese in 279 out of 3,636 high schools surveyed.
As well, 57 percent of schools with Chinese language on their curriculum require students to sit the written Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) for non-native speakers, 41 percent have included Chinese among their state exam subjects, and 47 percent said they intend to do so in the near future.
On the international student exchange front, some 500 Italian students have gone to China between 2003 and 2015, with the lion's share, or 81 percent, participating since 2008.
Three 17-year-old Italian exchange students were also on hand at the presentation of the findings on Tuesday in Rome. Among them was Alessia, who comes from the small town of Latina near Rome, and studied 10 months in Harbin hosted by a Chinese family.
Dressed in a white Chinese qipao, Alessia said she fell in love with China and called her host family members "mom, dad, and sister."
Matteo, also from Rome, studied Chinese in a Beijing boarding school for ten months. He said that despite difficulties caused by lifestyle differences, he enjoyed the experience very much and considered it very useful. For Matteo, learning Chinese is hard, and it takes commitment and consistency.
International exchange students are ambassadors who build "cultural, friendship and professional bridges," commented Interculture Foundation president Roberto Ruffino. Interculture started bilateral student exchanges with China 20 years ago, when three Italian students traveled to study there. Today, 108 Italian students are spending a year abroad in China, Ruffino said.
Sinologist Marco Croce, who is in charge of the exchange program with China, said he hopes for an increasingly culturally open China, and for more Chinese exchange students in Italy. In his view, China will become so important in the near future that it will be crucial to learn its language and culture.
There are about 20,000 Chinese students in Italy and some 6,000 Italian young people studying in China, he said.