Editor’s Note: The British government has created a new intensive program for high school students to learn Mandarin. 5,000 students in 15 high schools will study Mandarin eight hours a week. British Netizens and media have commented that the government has seemed to realize that Chinese has replaced French as the most important international language for business.
The British government has allocated 10 million pounds (about 86.5 million RMB) for a Chinese education program in national public schools. The Daily Mail recently reported on the new program. The government hopes to have more than 5,000 British students be fluent in Mandarin by 2020.
Are Our Kids Tough Enough?
In recent years, education in the United Kingdom has become more and more China-focused. Last year, the BBC filmed a documentary titled, “Are Our Kids Tough Enough?” The BBC invited five Chinese teachers to the United Kingdom to teach British students using Chinese teaching methods. When the documentary was broadcasted, the difference between the two teaching methods caused a debate on the Chinese Internet.
The British Ministry Education announced in July that half of UK primary schools will adopt the traditional Chinese method of teaching math. One Netizen noted that this idea began in David Cameron’s government. In December 2013, Cameron visited China and said that British students should give up French to learn Chinese.
A Place on the World Stage
Former London mayor Boris Johnson (who was given the nickname “Golden Lion King,” by the Chinese people) also visited China and said that British children should study Chinese in school. Minister of Finance George Osborne visited Shanghai and said the same thing: British children should start learning Chinese.
Last September the British government officially announced that it would launch a teaching program aimed at improving Chinese proficiency in the United Kingdom. In the next four years, more than 5,000 students in 15 public high schools will study Chinese for eight hours a week. The program officially began this year.
“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,” said Mark Herbert, head of schools programmes at the British Council.
Cameron said during his visit to China in 2013 that when Britain’s current children graduate from school, China will have become the world’s largest economy. Speaking Mandarin will help them do business with China.
The Economist reported that promoting Chinese language will help the UK economy in the future. Before the Brexit vote was held, politicians who advocated leaving the EU said that the United Kingdom should focus more on trade with China.
Chinese is a Challenge
British Netizens seem to agree: The United Kingdom has finally realized that French is no longer the most important language to learn. Chinese is!
However, Foreign Affairs pointed out that picking up Chinese should not be a casual decision for students. Chinese pronunciation is difficult, and the four tones are hard for native English speakers.
Despite the difficulties of Chinese, British schools have not given up their efforts. Teachers have also been exploring how to teach using Chinese methodology.
A middle school principal in Wakefield said that teachers were equipped with Chinese teaching assistants in all subjects so that children were constantly exposed to the language. The school library also has a number of books on Chinese culture and the school offers extracurricular activities in Chinese like morning exercises and traditional Chinese dances. The school also has a Chinese sister school that they use as a resource.
Source: QQ News
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Keywords: Intensive Mandarin program Mandarin in British high schools
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