BEIJING, March 11 (Xinhua) -- China's Confucius Institute Headquarters will have branches in nearly 500 large cities across the world by 2020 to promote the Chinese language and culture, the agency's head said Monday.
"We are planning to expand the institute's scale and improve its quality in order to meet growing demand for the promotion of Chinese language and culture," said Xu Lin, head of the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban).
There are now more than 400 Confucius Institutes in over 100 countries and regions, Xu said, adding that the number will reach 500 and the number of Confucius Classrooms will be 1,000 by 2015, with 1.5 million registered students.
Hanban is aimed at implementing a unified quality standard and training a number of quality teachers in order to better promote Chinese language and culture, said Xu.
She said Hanban has sent about 10,000 professional teachers and volunteers to overseas Confucius institutes and classrooms, although it is currently short of both professional teachers and teaching materials.
However, Hanban plans to prioritize the training of new teachers, as well as establish a volunteer database and accelerate the development of textbooks and other teaching materials, Xu said.
Online services will also be developed in order to meet overseas demand for Chinese culture education, Xu said.
Xu said Hanban will help some Confucius Institutes to launch advanced Chinese language and contemporary China studies programs, as well as encourage the establishment of more institutes that can focus on traditional Chinese medicine, martial arts, cooking and art.
"We will help the institutes and classrooms integrate with the national education systems of their host countries, as well as encourage students from those countries to come to China to further their studies," Xu said.
The Confucius Institute program was initiated in 2004. The Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms, both named for the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, serve as non-profit public institutions aiming to promote Chinese language and culture in foreign countries.