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UK pupils celebrate Mandarin learning

More than 140 pupils from 14 secondary schools across the UK have taken part in what is described as the country’s largest ever Chinese lesson to showcase the skills they developed as part of the Mandarin Excellence Programme.

The Mandarin Excellence Programme will see at least 5,000 school pupils in the UK on track to fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020. Photo: The British CouncilThe Mandarin Excellence Programme will see at least 5,000 school pupils in the UK on track to fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020. Photo: The British Council

"If the UK is to remain globally competitive in the years ahead, we need many more young people being given the chance to master Mandarin"

The Mandarin Excellence Programme, delivered by the UCL Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council, is on track to have 5,000 young people fluent in Mandarin by 2020 – helping to ensure Britain has the skills fit for the future.

The program was introduced in September 2016 and the results from the first year show that the majority of pupils achieved over 80%  in reading, writing, listening and speaking tests, which shows their quick progress and the advanced understanding of the language.

Held at the Foreign Office, the celebratory event formed part of the China and UK People-to-People week and saw the pupils taking part in a number of activities designed to help them continue their learning and celebrate the UK’s cultural, educational and social links with China.

The program is on track to have 5,000 young people fluent in Mandarin by 2020

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb praised the first cohort of pupils on the program for their excellent first-year results.

“Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, so this program plays a crucial role in helping these pupils achieve the fluency they need to succeed in an increasingly global economy,” he said.

The level of fluency in Mandarin achieved by these dedicated pupils after the first year demonstrates the commitment of the pupils and teachers involved in the program.

“Young people fluent in Mandarin will be at a significant advantage when competing for jobs with their peers from around the world, and will help us to build a Britain that is fit for the future and ready to compete.”

Pupils on the program spend an average of eight hours per week studying the language, including four hours of classroom lessons.

In addition to improving students’ fluency in the language, the UCL Institute of Education aims to have trained at least 100 new qualified Chinese teachers by the end of the program.

Katharine Carruthers, director of the UCL Institute Of Education (IOE) Confucius Institute, said the pupils who took part in the program of events at the Foreign Office today had the opportunity to participate in “what must surely have been the country’s largest ever Chinese lesson”.

“They met government ministers from both the UK and China and talked enthusiastically about their progress in the language, their enjoyment of lessons and the forthcoming visit to China in July 2018.

“They all felt this was a great opportunity to see the Foreign Office, to meet pupils from other schools and to realise that they are participating in a prestigious national DfE program which is considered of significant importance to both the UK and China.”

Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council, Mark Herbert added that the importance of the Mandarin Chinese language to the UK’s future is likely to increase as the country repositions itself on the world stage.

“Not only is learning Mandarin a fascinating process which creates a connection to the rich and varied Chinese culture but is also a language spoken by over a billion people worldwide,” he said.

“This program plays a crucial role in helping these pupils achieve the fluency they need to succeed in an increasingly global economy”

“If the UK is to remain globally competitive in the years ahead, we need many more young people being given the chance to master Mandarin.”

The program and associated funding are available to state-funded secondary schools with good or outstanding Ofsted ratings.

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