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Mandarin in UK schools

Recently, it was announced that six-year-old Suri Cruise, the daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, will be learning to Mandarin at school; and celebrities’ interest in teaching their children Mandarin has reignited the debate on teaching the language in UK schools. 

Global languagesIn 2010, the British Government announced that 1,000 Mandarin teachers would be trained to work in secondary schools. A survey released that same year by the Confederation of British Industry emphasized the importance of Mandarin, reporting that it was second only to French as the language they hoped that potential employees would possess.

Education secretary Michael Gove believes learning Mandarin would "help to encourage mobility between the two countries". With Mandarin notably becoming dominant within the world of business, it would appear beneficial for the next generation to learn it. Elizabeth Reid, of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, believes that: "China is at the centre of the global economy and the next generation will need to understand its culture and be able to work in its language."

The uptake of Mandarin in schools level has remained steady since 2007. According to the Language Trends Survey 2011, carried out by ISMLA, CfBT and ALL, the uptake of Mandarin dropped slightly in  maintained and independent schools, (from 37% to 36% in independent schools, and 16% to 14% in maintained schools).

Ann Swarbrick, President of ALL and languages education lead for Initial Teacher Training at the CfBT Education Trust, said: "We work with the British Council and Hanban providing a support programme for the 70-100 experienced Chinese interns who are sponsored by the Chinese government to teach Mandarin in UK schools for a 12-month period. The problem here is not applicants but quality placements. We have 20-30 applications per year, but the number of schools introducing Mandarin is small at the moment. Providing an appropriate teaching timetable is challenging and so some trainees offer a second subject."

For more information, visit: www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/399236/20121029/china-mandarin-michael-gove-schools-teaching-suri.htm.

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