Pupils from Dartford Grammar School showed off their Mandarin skills in front of the School Standards Minister, Nick Gibb MP during a visit to London last week.
As one of the first schools to participate in the Department for Education’s Mandarin Excellence Programme, the pupils joined 13 other schools from across England to celebrate the programme’s first year – with the Minister praising the pupils for their excellent results.
The intensive language programme - which is being delivered by the UCL Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council - was introduced in September 2016 and aims to see more than 5,000 pupils in England on track towards fluency in Mandarin by 2020.
Results from the first year of the programme show that the majority of pupils are making excellent progress so far - with the majority achieving marks of over 80 percent in reading, writing, listening and speaking tests.
Pupils at the event – which took place in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office headquarters in central London - participated in a number of activities to showcase their Mandarin skills and to help them continue their learning. This included a giant game of Chinese whispers, where the pupils were split into groups and had to communicate a message in Mandarin to help them practise their Mandarin speaking. The pupils were also invited to contribute to scrolls which included the words and characters they had learnt through their time on the Mandarin Excellence Programme.
Headteacher, Mr John Oakes said: “It was a significant end to an exciting year of learning Mandarin. Our pupils have worked very hard with intensive language lessons and their level of fluency amazes everyone who sees it.”
Among the guests at the event was a delegation from China which was visiting the UK as part of the UK-China People to People dialogue to celebrate the cultural, educational and social links with China.
Through the Mandarin Excellence Programme, secondary school pupils study Mandarin for an average of eight hours a week – a significant increase on the time pupils currently spend on the subject.
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, so this programme plays a crucial role in helping these pupils achieve the fluency they need to succeed in an increasingly global economy.
“The level of fluency in Mandarin achieved by these dedicated pupils after the first year demonstrates the commitment of the pupils and teachers involved in the programme.
“Young people fluent in Mandarin will be at a significant advantage when competing for jobs with their peers from around the world, and will help us to build a Britain that is fit for the future and ready to compete.”
Katharine Carruthers, Director of the UCL Institute Of Education (IOE) Confucius Institute, said: “The pupils who took part in the programme of events at the Foreign Office had the opportunity to participate in what must surely have been the country’s largest ever Chinese lesson.
“They met government ministers from both the UK and China and talked enthusiastically about their progress in the language, their enjoyment of lessons and the forthcoming visit to China in July 2018.
“They all felt this was a great opportunity to see the Foreign Office, to meet pupils from other schools and to realise that they are participating in a prestigious national DfE programme which is considered of significant importance to both the UK and China.”
Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council said: “Mandarin Chinese is one of the languages that matters most to the UK’s future – and its importance is only likely to increase as the country repositions itself on the world stage. Not only is learning Mandarin a fascinating process which creates a connection to the rich and varied Chinese culture but is also a language spoken by over a billion people worldwide.
“If the UK is to remain globally competitive in the years ahead, we need many more young people being given the chance to master Mandarin.”