Major boost for Mandarin learning

Liz Truss MP
Liz Truss MP

South West Norfolk MP and Education Minister Elizabeth Truss has hailed an agreement that will see a major centre of excellence for the training of teachers of Mandarin set up in London – and lead to more children learning the language.

She was speaking after the Hanban (the Chinese National Office for the Teaching of Chinese as a Foreign Language) and the Institute of Education’s (IoE) Confucius Institute signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the centre here.

It will mean the IoE’s Confucius Institute is the biggest centre of excellence in the training of Mandarin Chinese teachers outside China, and provide a major boost to the Government’s commitment to increase the number of teachers of Mandarin.

At the moment the IoE oversees 37 Confucius classrooms teaching Mandarin across England and there are just 300 teachers qualifying in Mandarin a year.

Katharine Carruthers, Director of the Institute of Education’s Confucius Institute, said the model institute would enable that number to be doubled, and that 600 teachers a year would be given further training.

The Prime Minister said in December that he wanted to see a doubling in numbers learning Chinese by 2020.

Elizabeth Truss – who is on a week-long visit to China studying schools and education centres – said: “This is a huge step forward as we seek to boost the number of young people learning Mandarin. It is a language that will be increasingly important as our young people compete for jobs in what is now a global labour market and a language which will help seal tomorrow’s business deals.”

Katharine Carruthers, director of the IoE, said: “We are delighted to be able to expand the training of teachers of Mandarin Chinese so that Chinese will be a curriculum option for all pupils wanting to study the language. We are very pleased that the Hanban is investing in a dedicated centre in London.”

The agreement will further add to the number of pupils studying Mandarin thanks to the Government’s reforms.

From September 2014 this Government is making it compulsory for children in maintained schools from age seven to 11 to learn a language. This could include Mandarin. The EBacc also includes a modern or ancient language which has led to a big increase this year (15.8 per cent) in the number of UK wide learners taking a language GCSE.

Between 2012 and 2013, the number of entries to Chinese GCSE increased by 20 per cent (UK wide), with 930 secondary schools offering it at GCSE level.

In a CBI survey in 2010, UK employers mentioned Mandarin as second only to French as a language skill they would be looking for in future employees.

Research by the British Council last year put Mandarin Chinese in the top five most important languages for the UK’s prosperity, security and influence in future years but only one per cent of the UK’s adult population speak Mandarin Chinese well enough to hold a conversation.

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