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Chen Jiu

Mandarin teaching in the UK - government report

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Chen Jiu

The attached makes interesting reading if you have the time. Contrary to some of the opinions I've read on here, the teaching of Mandarin in UK schools is still limited to a small percentage. The two main problems seem to relate to the time and effort needed to yield good exam grades, and getting staff with the authority, understanding and skill to teach British schoolchildren. :nono

DCSF-RW019.pdf

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chen88

It sounds like they are having some of the same problems that the US and other western countries are having when trying to introduce Mandarin into their schools: heritage-speakers and other learners in the same classroom, students not excited about rote learning, curriculums lacking enough cultural components and games to keep students engaged, etc. It will be fascinating to see how the UK and other countries ameliorate these issues and successfully incorporate Mandarin into their school systems.Thanks for sharing!

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Neil_H

Not just problems at schools. I have been trying to get myself on a course at the college and they just don't have enough people to make up the minimum 10 people needed.

Two colleges tried with the same result. May be different for the beginners course as this was Intermediate level.

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Arlo_

That is a very interesting report. Thank you for posting. In my opinion the most significant reason for lack of Mandarin teaching is hidden in the sub-text of this sentence:

‘The main constraints to developing Mandarin teaching are perceived to be the availability of trained teachers and lack of time on the curriculum.’

In fact there is nothing whatsoever to prevent schools from making time on the curriculum to teach Mandarin. Most schools choose not to do so because they prefer students to take ‘easier’ subjects. This is because, with easier subjects, students are more certain to fulfil a school’s government targets.

Unless the current system of targets changes, ‘difficult’ subjects will continue to be excluded for the curriculum, even though they would be very worthwhile for students and have greater currency with employers than easier subjects.

By the way, the study of 'traditional' modern foreign languages like French and German has sharply declined for the same reason. Nobody could say there is a shortage of French and German teachers!

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James Johnston

But haven't you heard, Mandarin teaching in the UK is 'booming' according to the Independent today?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/look-east-why-chinese-lessons-are-booming-1799026.html

It's nonsense of course, they've been pedalling this kind of story in the media for years now, but the truth is, if you look into it, there are very few opportunities for students or potential teachers. Unless you happen to live in Beckton or can afford to send your children to a top private school, there are almost no opportunities to study Chinese to GCSE or A-level in London. Most of those who do study Chinese are from Chinese-speaking families and study at community colleges, but take the actual exams at their school allowing the school to claim credit.

The Confucius Classrooms are great, but inevitably very limited in number and Britain can't rely on the Hanban to fund Mandarin education in our schools.

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HashiriKata
The Confucius Classrooms are great
In what way? I've heard of them but don't know what they offer and in what ways they are different from traditional classes taught in the UK. Have you got some experience of them?

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James Johnston

'Great' relative to what is available elsewhere, which is usually nothing at all. I don't have direct experience, but Kingsford Community School's website provides some information.

http://kingsfordschool.com/kcc/

They do outreach work, and do seem to motivate students from a pretty ordinary part of East London to study Mandarin to a decent level.

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xianhua
But haven't you heard, Mandarin teaching in the UK is 'booming' according to the Independent today?

Ha, ha – just like all our schools would be linked with Chinese ones by 2010.

“He (Gordon Brown) made it clear in a speech he delivered during that trip that he wants every school, college and university to be twinned with an equivalent in China within the next five years.”

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4341557.stm

I work within education, and a few years back we tried to get a link off the ground. We had several schools in our county interested in forming links with China. We managed to arrange a meeting with the right people from the education committee in my wife’s hometown in China. However, the reception was less than favourable and our attempts were viewed with suspicion. What did we have to gain from forming links between schools they mused? Well, nothing apart from promoting cultural ties and understanding. I think the concept was just too alien for a 'small' town in Hubei.

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HashiriKata
http://kingsfordschool.com/kcc/

They do outreach work, and do seem to motivate students from a pretty ordinary part of East London to study Mandarin to a decent level.

Thanks James, for the link & info. Still at work, I'll have a look at the link later.

Cheers,

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Neil_H

I think I noticed one member here has taken the GCSE Mandarin Exam. Is it as simple as gettng the Edexel book, working through it then taking the exam? I fancy having a go at this as my first Chinese qualification next year.

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James Johnston

I am not the person who took GCSE Mandarin, but I do know that it's not that easy or cheap to take GCSE exams as an independent student. Unless you can find a secondary school who will let you take the exam there, you will have to pay an private examination centre. The centre will charge for each paper you sit, such as the reading paper, writing paper etc. Then you have the added complication of the oral and listening exams, for which they doubtless charge extra, and you would have to find a Chinese speaker with experience to do the oral exam. If you did have to use a private examination centre it could end up costing a few hundred pounds. Of course, it's much easier and cheaper to enrol on a course at a local college if possible, though there are not many offering GCSE Mandarin.

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Neil_H

My wife is Chinese so no problem with the practice.

Finding a place to take the exam could be a problem though. I will have to make some enquiries next year. Perhaps May sort of time would be good when the other exams are taking place.

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James Johnston
a Chinese speaker with experience to do the oral exam

Actually, I meant someone to conduct the oral exam, i.e. ask the questions or hold a conversation which would be recorded and sent to the exam board for assessment. I'm not sure if a relative would be allowed to do this, but even if it was alright, your wife would need to gain some experience of how GCSE oral exams work.

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joneeboy72

The reason it is difficult to study Chinese in the UK is simply that there are just not enough that want to. It is the same situateion with Japanese, that has had a big business relationship with the UK for a lot longer. Local education authorities,universities and other colleges just can't get enough people interested to run the courses. My local authority has tried several times. Needs 12 to start a course, usually starts with about 9 or 10, hoping that a few more latecomers will join. 1 or 2 drop out after the 1st week, and after the 3rd week the course folds. As for availability of Chinese teachers. There are plenty.It is the students who are lacking.

Some have mentioned GCSE. It is impossible to do self-study for that, because 60% of marks come from coursework, which can only come from a Government 'approved educational institute'.My wife is Chinese and qualified to teach Mandarin to Masters degree level, but she is employed as an English teacher in a UK secondary school which is listed as a specialist language school.She does some private teaching for businesses, but the schools have no interest.My daughter could teach Mandarin too, but is well-paid as an interpreter and translater for businesses.

anyone who wants to study Chinbese should think about doing a course in China. It is easy, and cheap.

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Shi Tong

I am one of those suffering from lack of courses in the UK.

I've done some investigation into the Mandarin courses, and there are a relatively large quantity of basic and intermediate, but these also are the kinds of classes which get you to a GCSE standard, which I am already way above for my speaking and listening skills.

Seems quite odd since, after these basic and intermediate classes (which teach you up to about 16-18 year olds standards) you still have places which teach Chinese Degree level courses.

Speaking of which, does anyone have a good source of Chinese courses in the UK?!:lol:

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Carwyn

Seems quite odd since, after these basic and intermediate classes (which teach you up to about 16-18 year olds standards) you still have places which teach Chinese Degree level courses.

Speaking of which, does anyone have a good source of Chinese courses in the UK?!:lol:

You should look at the UCAS site and search for Chinese or Mandarin. From experience/what I've heard from people on courses the best universities are; Oxbridge (duh?), SOAS, Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh. It really depends what you want (single honours, joint honours with business (they all have you covered there) or joint honours with humanities (more tricky)), what situation your coming in to it from (A-levels, mature student etc.) .

The courses do focus on Chinese, but a joint honours focuses no more on Chinese language as a single honours, you need to know the same to pass. Other credits get made up of culture, history, literature and business etc.

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Neil_H

I tried to enrol for another course recently (Lower Intermediate Spoken) but as expected it was only the beginners and post beginner courses that ran.

This one had nobody on it and this was at a major Univercity.

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adrianlondon

Bumping an old thread but as most of the current British government seems to be on a trip to China.

From http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/10/david-cameron-china-eu-markets-economy

Also today, Michael Gove, the education secretary, who is accompanying Cameron, announced a partnership with China to train more than 1,000 Mandarin teachers for English secondary schools.

Gove said he was "delighted to be building a stronger education partnership with the Chinese", adding: "This is not just about fostering a better understanding of China among our young people. Offering every young person the chance to learn Mandarin will help to encourage mobility between the two countries, equip the next generation with the skills they need to succeed, and ensure the long-term success of our economy and society."

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anonymoose

I've looked at some Chinese A-level exam papers (that is, school-leaving exams, usually taken by 18-year olds), and they seem to be geared towards native speakers (meaning speakers with Chinese heritage) rather than regular learners of a foreign language. (In fact, it seems there are also exams in Hindi, Urdu and various other languages, which are almost certainly aimed at heritage speakers, since virtually noone learns these languages unless they have a family connection with the relevant country.) As such, the level is much higher than equivalent exams in French and German which are the standard foreign languages for secondary school students in the UK. Since, for native English speakers, Mandarin is much harder to learn than French or German, and British students tend to have a pretty dismal record when it comes to foreign languages anyway, I don't think most regular secondary school students have a realistic chance of scoring a good grade in Mandarin under the current system. Training Mandarin teachers for UK secondary schools is a good idea (even though 1000 seems like quite a small number), but I can't see it having much of an impact on the number of serious learners, unless students have a chance of achieving a good qualification (which is, after all, neccessary for getting into a good university).

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xianhua

Anonymoose - agreed. Only an absent-minded headteacher would allow a non-proficient student to enter for an A-level examination in a highly challenging subject like Mandarin. After all, their overall subject grades (and ability to attract future students) would suffer as a result. Therefore, I conclude that the British government are paying the Chinese to teach Chinese to the (British?) Chinese. Perhaps, it's their way of compensating for the recent cessation of international aid to China. Or perhaps they just wanted to make a gesture of good will to keep the deals coming.

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