Pupils across the UK are to be given the chance to link up with schools in nations such as India, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.

In an attempt to bring traditional foreign exchanges into the 21st century, ministers have announced an initiative which they said will help to link classrooms around the world.

Under the Connecting Classrooms scheme, up to 2,500 schools will be funded for a full programme including grants for teacher exchanges and training.

An additional 18,000 schools will be given help to collaborate with schools abroad online, the Department for International Development (DFID) said. This could include schools sharing resources, downloading lesson ideas and pupils working together to learn about each other's countries.

Around 15,000 teachers will also be able to complete professional training in global citizenship, information and communication technology (ICT) and English language for international exchange.

Connecting Classrooms is run by the British Council, working in 50 countries worldwide.

DFID is planning to contribute £17 million to the scheme over three years to create links between schools in the UK and 29 developing nations such as India, Nepal, Ghana, South Africa, Sierra Leone and Bangladesh.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "This new programme will allow more children growing up in the UK to learn about the world around them, about the facts of poverty that face children their own age in developing countries. It will also greatly benefit pupils and teachers in developing countries by helping to improve their ICT, English and professional skills."