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More pupils encouraged to take Mandarin

06/06/2014 Joanna
The number of pupils in secondary schools taking Mandarin is set to surge as a result of a government drive to encourage more people to learn the language.

Education minister Elizabeth Truss said the intention is for the number of youngsters taking the language at GCSE level to more than double by the end of the decade, the Telegraph reports.

She added that this will enable the UK to take advantage of the Chinese economy, which is growing rapidly.

Ms Truss said: "China's growing economy brings huge business opportunities for Britain and it is vital that more of our young people can speak Mandarin to be able to trade in a global market and to develop successful companies."

Ministers also hope it will enhance the appeal of foreign languages to young people and reverse the long-term decline in the number taking the subjects.

Over 1,200 specialist Mandarin teachers are to be trained in the subject to ensure pupils from state schools have the same degree of access as their counterparts in private schools.

The move forms part of a plan to open the Confucius Institute at the Institute of Education (IoE) in London. This will be the largest training centre for mandarin outside China.

A Labour decision to make foreign languages optional in 2004 led to fewer pupils taking the courses. Coalition reforms to encourage youngsters to take more traditional subjects has led to a revival in their popularity, however.

Mandarin is currently offered primarily in private schools, where it is taught as a curriculum subject or extra-curricular option by almost half of institutions. In comparison, only around 15 per cent of state schools offer the subject.

Confucius Institutes are found all over the world and serve to promote Chinese language and culture. A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Chinese government and the IoE to open one in London in 2015.

Some 1,360 teachers will be trained to deliver the subject by 2019, up from a current figure of less than 300. Of these, 160 will be dedicated Mandarin specialists.

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