A NEW £10m Mandarin programme will see at least 5,000 young people “on track towards fluency in the language” by 2020.
Hundreds of secondary school pupils in England have started intensive lessons in Mandarin Chinese as the first initiative of its kind is rolled out.
The Archbishop Sentamu Academy, in Hull, is among the first 15 schools in the country to take part in the Department for Education (DfE) backed scheme.
There are also plans to have trained at least 100 qualified Chinese teachers by the end of the Mandarin excellence programme.
Secondary school pupils will study Mandarin for eight hours a week over the course of the next four years.
Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world.
The DfE said it was important for young people in the UK to master the language in order for the country to remain “globally competitive in the future”.
The programme is being led by schools, supported by the University College London’s Institute of Education, in partnership with the British Council, with the first lessons in Mandarin beginning this week as pupils return from their summer break. School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “A high level of fluency in Mandarin Chinese will become increasingly important in our globally competitive economy.
“As part of our drive to extend opportunity, we want to give young people the opportunity to study the language and to acquire fluency in both spoken and written Mandarin.
“The Mandarin excellence programme helps us achieve this, offering intensive study in the language which will not only be personally enriching for students, but will also give them a significant advantage when they enter the world of work.”
The Confucius Institute, based at the UCL Institute of Education, already has a network of 42 Confucius Classrooms across England. It supports schools in teaching and learning of Mandarin Chinese and the study of China across other areas of the curriculum.
This network includes Archbishop Sentamu Academy, in Hull, which is now also among the 15 schools where pupils will have intensive Mandarin lessons, and Silverdale School, in Sheffield.
Katharine Carruthers, director of the UCL Institute Of Education (IOE) Confucius Institute, said: “The UCL Institute of Education is delighted to be delivering the DfE’s Mandarin excellence programme.
“Over the last decade, our work in schools has inspired increasing numbers of secondary school pupils to take Mandarin Chinese.
“This programme provides a real boost and unique opportunity for more motivated pupils to be on track towards fluency in Mandarin. We are also developing new innovative teaching methods which will benefit the young people on the programme as well as the wider cohort of pupils learning Mandarin Chinese in our schools. The Mandarin excellence programme will undoubtedly further the UK’s relationship with China at all levels.”
This summer Sheffield University announced plans to strengthen links with China with the creation of a new “gateway” which aims to make the city the landing point in the North of England for Chinese businesses, academics and students.
The new Sheffield Confucius Business Gateway is a partnership between Sheffield University, the city’s chamber of commerce and their partners in China.