A new £10 million Mandarin excellence programme will see at least 5,000 young people on track towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020.
Hundreds of secondary school pupils in England have already begun intensive lessons in Mandarin Chinese as the first initiative of its kind is rolled out across the country.
Secondary school pupils will study Mandarin for 8 hours a week over the course of the next 4 years through the programme - a significant increase on the time pupils currently spend on the subject.
Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, and is seen as important for young people in the UK to master in order for the country to remain globally competitive in the future.
The programme is being led by participating schools, supported by the UCL Institute of Education, in partnership with the British Council, with the first lessons in Mandarin beginning this week as pupils return from their summer break. There are 15 schools participating in the first wave.
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:
A high level of fluency in Mandarin Chinese will become increasingly important in our globally competitive economy. As part of our drive to extend opportunity, we want to give young people the opportunity to study the language and to acquire fluency in both spoken and written Mandarin.
The Mandarin excellence programme helps us achieve this, offering intensive study in the language which will not only be personally enriching for students, but will also give them a significant advantage when they enter the world of work.
In addition to improving students’ fluency in the language, the UCL Institute of Education, in collaboration with other providers, aims to have trained at least 100 new qualified Chinese teachers by the end of the programme.
The Confucius Institute, based at the UCL Institute of Education, already has a network of 42 Confucius Classrooms across England and supports schools in starting and developing the teaching and learning of Mandarin Chinese and the study of China across other areas of the curriculum.
Katharine Carruthers, Director of the UCL Institute Of Education (IOE) Confucius Institute, said:
The UCL Institute of Education is delighted to be delivering the DfE’s Mandarin excellence programme. Over the last decade, our work in schools has inspired increasing numbers of secondary school pupils to take up Mandarin Chinese. This programme provides a real boost and unique opportunity for more motivated pupils to be on track towards fluency in Mandarin.
We are also developing new innovative teaching methods which will benefit the young people on the programme as well as the wider cohort of pupils learning Mandarin Chinese in our schools. The Mandarin excellence programme will undoubtedly further the UK’s relationship with China at all levels.
Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council, said:
Language skills are crucial for work and life in the global race, and Mandarin Chinese is one of the frontrunners when it comes to languages that matter most to the UK’s future prosperity. If the UK is to remain competitive on the world stage, we need far more of our young people leaving school with a good grasp of Mandarin in order to successfully work abroad or for businesses here in the UK.
Image copyright: British Council