UK, Pioneer of Chinese Language Education

[Source] [Time]    2018-07-03 08:36:40 

Allen Pillay, an eighth-grader, read everyone a Chinese food tongue twister and turned the hall over. It is part of the speech of a student studying Chinese who contesting at the 15th Annual Chinese Teaching Conference in the UK. This year, nearly 300 teachers from mainstream schools in the UK, Ireland and other European countries attended the Annual Conference to exchange the experience and discuss the future development of Chinese language teaching.

The conference this year is themed ¡°Thinking globally, acting locally¡±. ¡°We need to understand Chinese language education in other countries in an open and analytical point of view. At the same time, Chinese language teaching should conform to the conditions of local schools, students and teachers. Chinese language learners¡¯ motivation holds the key to keep on constant learning which roots in all the positive learning outcomes.¡± Katharine Carruthers, Foreign Director of the Confucius Institute at the University College London of Institute of Education (hereinafter referred to as the IOE Confucius Institute) interprets the theme.

The UK is not only the country with the most Confucius Institutes in Europe, but also one of the countries with the best Chinese language education. In the UK, 69 percent of students taking the Chinese examination in General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) have reached the level of A plus or A. In 2016, the British Department for Education funded the ¡°Mandarin Excellence Programme¡±, aiming to train 5,000 fluent Chinese speakers by 2020. Until now, there are more than 1,400 students in the UK attending the Programme. In 2017-2018 academic year, British had 37 schools attending "Mandarin Excellence Programme", and in 2018-2019 school year the number rose to 60. According to the IOE Confucius Institute, many schools wish to join in the project, so as to provide students with the systematic Chinese education of high quality.

According to the data from the Education Section of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, there have been 29 Confucius Institutes and 148 Confucius Classrooms in the UK and Chinese teaching institutions and personnel can be found in three British Royal Territories (Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man) until October 2017. At present, the UK has listed Chinese into its national education system. The percentage of private schools offering Chinese language classes has reached 45%. Based on the diagrams from the UCL IOE Confucius Institute, the distribution of Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms in UK has gradually spread from London at the very beginning to all regions.

British acceptance of Chinese and enthusiasm for learning Chinese are highly consistent with the increasingly close economic, trading, cultural and personnel exchanges, which is, indeed, a result of in-depth development of education cooperation in recent years. Xia Jianhui, Counselor of the Education Section of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, said: ¡°Both Chinese and UK government attach great importance to the educational exchanges in education internationalization and language teaching. At present, the two sides have established a complete mutual exchange and an all-round cooperation mechanisms covering primary and secondary schools, universities, hopefully to achieve accessible fruits in research and innovation.¡± He also remarked that the exchange of language and culture is conducive to mutual respect and understanding and plays an important role in promoting cooperation in bilateral relationship.

Apart from the active promotion of government, British people are drawn to China¡¯s rich cultural heritages and pay attention to its historical and cultural traditions. Many students were originally curious about Chinese culture and began to learn Chinese. In addition, as an immigration country, though UK¡¯s official language is English, its people can get access to many foreign languages in social life. It is very common for people to speak two or three languages in UK. The multilingual environment of British society also provides favorable conditions for the education of Chinese language to bloom. In the future, there will be more and more British people who can fluently speak Chinese tongue twisters like Allen.

(Story by Qiang Wei,, London, June 25th)

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