Teachers, resources urged for Mandarin learning

By ANGUS McNEICE | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-10-23 16:18

The United Kingdom's largest education-sector trade union is calling for British schools to be given more resources to support the teaching of Mandarin.

The National Education Union made the call after the Department for Education reported modest results for its national Mandarin program. The progress report shows 382 students enrolled on the Mandarin Excellence Programme, which aims to have 5,000 British school children speaking Chinese by 2020.

The figures suggest that, if student enrollment rates are not accelerated, the government will struggle to achieve its target set in September 2015 when the 10 million pound ($13.2 million) initiative was announced.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the union, expressed concern about the number of Mandarin teachers and the range of resources.

"It is no surprise that money has been wasted and outcomes are below what was expected," Bousted said. "The number of modern foreign language teachers is actually declining. The lack of resources in the teaching of Mandarin is reflected across not only modern foreign language teaching, but the entire education sector."

She said the government needs to address the"teacher recruitment and retention crisis" if it wants more success.

In its report, the government said a "majority" of the 382 Mandarin students at 14 schools had achieved marks of 80 percent or higher in tests of reading, writing, listening, and speaking Chinese.

The UK School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said the program is necessary because Mandarin is an important language in a "globally competitive economy".

"This will give them a significant advantage when competing in the global jobs market, and is particularly important as we prepare to leave the European Union," Gibb said.

The program is supported by the British Council and the Confucius Institute at the Institute for Education within University College London.

Mark Herbert, head of schools programs at the British Council, said: "Mandarin Chinese is one of the languages that matters most to the UK's prosperity-and its importance is only likely to increase as the UK repositions itself on the world stage."

Katharine Carruthers, director of the Confucius Institute at UCL, said the program aims to add more schools and a further 1,000 learners during the coming academic year. She said at least 100 new Chinese teachers will be qualified by the end of the program.

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