More Indonesians heading to universities in China

More Indonesians are heading to universities in China, and the trend is expected to continue as more Chinese universities offer English-medium courses - eliminating the need for Mandarin-language proficiency.

Cost is another reason why more Indonesians choose China instead of traditional destinations like Australia, Europe and the United States.

Helen Lim is among thousands of young Indonesians who are taking Mandarin-language classes in Jakarta.

They are preparing to study in China.

And some - like Ms Lim - are taking post-graduate courses to tap on the Middle Kingdom's growing economic clout.

Ms Lim said: "We all know about China's economic explosion. That is the reason why I plan to study there; get their knowledge and apply it in Indonesia."

Another Indonesian student, Recky Andrianus, said: "My father's business is Tour and Travel. Automatically, language is very important."

Others like Belinda Ma see this as an opportunity to pursue a career in world's second biggest economy.

She said: "I might stay."

The majority of Indonesian Chinese do not speak Mandarin or any of the Chinese-dialects - a consequence of a decades-long anti-Chinese policy imposed during President Suharto's rule.

The policy was abandoned in 2002, following political reform in Indonesia.

Chinese education fairs are an annual affair in major cities across Indonesia.

The prospect of studying in China has become more attractive in the last five years, especially after a number of Chinese universities collaborated with established outfits from Britain, United States and Australia to offer English-medium courses.

Samuel Wiyono, director of the Beijing Language and Culture Institute, said: "English is the second language in Indonesia. So it could be a reason why the English-teaching medium is being preferred and developed faster than the Chinese-language medium."

Cost is another major reason for Indonesians who choose to go to China.

Mr Wiyono said: "With affordable living expense that is equivalent to Indonesia, automatically China becomes an alternative for education. They also assumed that China's education standard is on par with the country's progress."

An estimated 700 Indonesians make their way to Chinese universities each year. That is a 30 per cent jump compared to the last five years. The trend will bolster the number of Indonesian students in China, which currently stands at around 10,000.

Dewi Fortuna Anwar, Special Assistant to Indonesia's Vice President, said: "At the moment, there are more Indonesian students studying in China than there are going to the United States. This is only happening in the past 10 years."

It is a point not lost on the leaders of the US and China during their recent visits to Indonesia.

Washington and Beijing are now offering more scholarships to Indonesians.

Dewi Fortuna Anwar said: "If the United States does not take care, they are going to lose a lot of social capital. More and more Indonesians will refer to Beijing than Washington - not for any other reason, but because they have experience of studying in China."

For these students, China is where they want to be - it is affordable, it is near and they believe it is where the opportunities are.

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