A proposal to remove English from compulsory education in China has been raised at this year’s Two Sessions government meeting in Beijing. If adopted, the move could see the need for foreign English teachers in China diminish dramatically.
Source: World Bank Photo Collection
The idea, touted by CPPCC member Xu Jin at the annual government meeting last week, has prompted heated discussion on Chinese social media about whether or not the English language skills learnt in school are useful for the majority of Chinese adults.
"In the compulsory education stage, English and other foreign language courses should no longer be set as the main subjects equivalent to Chinese and mathematics, and should be removed as compulsory subjects from the college entrance examination," Xu said, according to the Global Times.
He added that the subject — which, according to state media, takes up around 10 percent of students’ class hours but is only useful for less than 10 percent of college graduates — could be made obsolete in the near-future by AI translation software. Ditching English as a compulsory subject would also allow Chinese students to spend more time developing critical thinking skills or mastering the arts and sports, Xu said.
An online poll found that most Chinese support keeping English as a compulsory school subject as it ensures China can compete on the global stage. Some, however, said they would rather more time was spent learning about Chinese language and culture.
Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University's School of International Relations and Public Affairs, called the proposal “narrow-minded popularism”, and said removing English from compulsory education in China would result in education inequality and leave future generations unable to deliver messages and ideas from China to the world.
Xiong Bingqi, the director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, said he would rather see China’s gaokao college entrance examination reformed to include more diverse assessment measures rather than see English removed from the curriculum altogether.
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Keywords: China considers removing English from compulsory education
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