Hundreds of school pupils in England excelling at Mandarin Chinese

by Ray Clancy on October 30, 2017

British people are not known for being good at learning foreign languages but a national language learning initiative has seen hundreds of school pupils in England moving towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese.

Progress test results from pupils on the Department for Education’s Mandarin Excellence Programme indicate that the first group of almost 400 pupils from 14 schools across England are excelling when it comes to learning Mandarin Chinese, the most spoken language in the world.


Delivered by University College London’s Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council, pupils on the programme spend an average of eight hours per week studying the language. This includes four hours in the classroom which is a significant increase on the time usually spent on a language in school with the results showing that the Year 7 pupils’ skills are developing at pace.

The majority of those on the programme achieved marks of 80% or higher across specially created tests in reading, writing, listening and speaking. This not only indicates the quick progress the pupils are making but as skills that aren’t usually tested amongst this age group, it highlights the uniqueness and rigour of the programme as a whole.

And with an additional 23 schools throughout England starting the Mandarin Excellence Programme this term, hundreds more pupils will soon be reaping the rewards of the innovative approach to language learning which gives students an unprecedented opportunity to gain advanced skills at an early stage.

Ultimately, the programme aims to see at least 5,000 pupils in England on track towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020.

‘Mandarin Chinese is an important language to learn in our globally competitive economy. I am pleased that this programme is continuing to grow, allowing more pupils to be taught Mandarin at an advanced level,’ said School Standards Minister Nick Gibb.

‘I would like to congratulate the first cohort of students on their success. They have achieved some excellent results thanks to their hard work and dedication. This will give them a significant advantage when competing in the global jobs market, and is particularly important as we prepare to leave the European Union,’ he added.

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

The Confucius Institute, based at the UCL Institute of Education already has a network of 45 Confucius Classrooms across England and supports schools in starting and developing the teaching and learning of Mandarin Chinese and the study of China across other areas of the curriculum.

According to Mark Herbert, head of schools programmes at the British Council, Mandarin Chinese is one of the languages that matters most to the UK’s prosperity and its importance is only likely to increase as the UK repositions itself on the world stage.

‘If the UK is to remain globally competitive, we need far more young people leaving school with a good grasp of Mandarin in order to successfully work abroad or for businesses here in the UK. More than that, learning Mandarin is a fascinating process which creates a connection to the amazing Chinese culture and over a billion Chinese speakers globally,’ he explained.

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