British government in Chinese learning pledge

[Source]     [Time]    2010-01-15 10:48:13 

Every British teenager should have the chance to learn Mandarin due to the growing importance of China in world events, the government said Monday.

One in seven secondary schools, which teach pupils aged 11-16, currently offer Mandarin and Schools Secretary Ed Balls said he wanted to extend this through language partnerships between schools.

"In this new decade our ties with emerging economies like China will become even more important and it¡¯s vital that young people are equipped with the skills which they need, and British businesses need too, in order to succeed in a rapidly changing world," he said.

"That¡¯s why we want all secondary pupils to have the opportunity to learn up-and-coming languages like Mandarin if they choose, either at their own school or a nearby school or college."

Businesses are increasingly interested in staff who speak Mandarin, according to a poll published last year by the CBI business lobby group.

It found that 38 percent of employers were looking for Mandarin or Cantonese speakers, compared to 52 percent for French and 43 percent for German.

According to last year¡¯s results for GCSEs, the compulsory exams taken at age 16, a total of 3,469 candidates took Mandarin -- 16 percent more than the previous year.

The take-up may also increase after the biggest exam board in the country began offering Mandarin GCSE last September, with the first pupils expected to complete the two-year course in June 2011.

However, the Conservatives expressed scepticism at the government¡¯s aspirations, noting that take-up of modern foreign languages has fallen since ministers made the subject optional at GCSE in 2002.