The number of Filipinos teaching Mandarin and English in China could substantially increase over the next year after the two countries met earlier in early May to discuss increased cultural and educational exchange.

The discussions, which were part of a mission by Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte to China, would see China and the Philippines supercharge their current exchange program.

“This has been going on in the past three years on a limited scale,” said education secretary Leonor Briones in a statement.

“What both countries want is an acceleration of this exchange because so far, nearly 300 teachers have already been trained in the Mandarin language at the Confucius Institute here in the Philippines.”

According to Briones, Chinese officials are also currently considering bringing around 2,000 Filipino teachers to the country to teach English.

The scaling up of education engagement, which will still need to go through a substantial planning and processing period, would also have flow-on benefits for the Philippines’ domestic education system, she added.

What the final arrangement will look like is unclear, however, Briones was steadfast that the government would control the exchange, rather than allow third parties to manage it.

“We prefer that this will be on a government-to-government basis, along with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration,” she said.

“Usually if you go through agents on either side, it will be a primary burden to the teachers. We need to work on the details, how teachers will be chosen, qualifications and how this will be implemented.

The second Belt and Road Forum was held in Beijing in April, with reports at the time expecting increased activity between the Philippines and China across areas including development assistance, anti-corruption and education.

Collaboration through education has become one of the five main points of the Belt and Road Initiative, and China’s ministry of education released their policy document to open education in early 2019.