Beijing: Senior officials in China are being sent to schools to learn English under a programme which aims to help local officials adapt to the city's goal of joining international metropolises by improving their ability to communicate internationally.

Thirty senior officials, most of them deputy heads of districts or deputy bureau chiefs, started their English courses in Shanghai this week.

They are the second batch of trainees in an eight-year English-training programme for government officials.

The programme, initiated by the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee's organisation department in 2010, aims to help local officials adapt to the city's goal of joining international metropolises by improving their ability to communicate internationally, a newspaper reported.

In the first year, nearly 30 officials took the English course, and 17 of them have successfully completed all of the training.

"After one-year systematic study, many officials have gained a lot in English ability," Wang Yu, deputy head of the organisation department said at the opening ceremony of the new school year.

"The government has recognized the importance of language in international communication and encourages more officials to participate," Wang said.

Under the programme, trainees receive tailor-made study plans based on their abilities.

Teachers from English speaking countries offer one-to-one training. To motivate the officials to work hard, the training courses' provider introduced a stricter assessment system this year.

Trainees who fail to reach the learning target will be dropped, making room for other officials to learn English.

"It's really difficult for them to learn a language because these officials are very busy. We hope that they will be motivated and work harder this way," Paul Blackstone, CEO of Wall Street English China said.

(Agencies)