Thousands of pupils across the United Kingdom are to be given Mandarin lessons in a government bid to double the amount of Mandarin learners in the UK by 2019.
It has been announced that more than 1,200 specialist Mandarin teachers will be trained in the subject to give public (state) school pupils the same opportunities to learn Mandarin, as those in private schools.
Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said The Conficus Institute – a new Mandarin teacher training center, would be set up in at the Institute of Education, London next year to help elevate the profile of the “language of the future”.
Truss assures the center will be “world-leading” and is a “huge step forward” into increasing the number of teachers with the specialism; adding “In turn, that will mean thousands more young people in our schools will have the opportunity to learn what is the language of the future and the language that will help seal tomorrow's business deals”.
Mandarin can already be found on the British school curriculum, and according to the British Department of Education: approximately 38% of independent and private school students are learning the language. By contrast, learners in public (state) school education are still a rarity, at just 11%. The British Council have backed the plans, calling today’s statement “excellent news”.
Until now, the number of children learning languages in secondary school education has suffered a steady decline from 2004, following a pre-coalition government decision to make language study optional from the age of 14.
Only recently have numbers started to increase again, following the introduction of reforms which rank schools by the numbers of children studying ‘traditional subjects’ - including languages.
A recent report by the British Council stated that Mandarin is in the top five most important languages for the UK's prosperity, security and influence in coming years.
From September 2014, one modern foreign language will be compulsory for all children at elementary (primary) school level in Britain, with Mandarin an as option.