Institute of Education


School pupils showcase ‘vital’ Mandarin skills in national competition

7 February 2017

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb is meeting with schools on the UCL Institute of Education’s (IOE) Mandarin Excellence Programme today (7 February) before opening a competition which sees 110 secondary school students from across the UK showcase their Mandarin skills.

Katharine Carruthers, Director of the IOE’s Confucius Institute for Schools, will chair the judging panel for the competition, which is the only national Mandarin speaking competition for UK schools.

Confucius Institute

With China recognised as the world’s second biggest economy, Mandarin Chinese is vital to the UK’s future prosperity. According to recent research commissioned for the Mandarin Excellence Programme, British parents see Mandarin Chinese as being the most beneficial non-European language for their children to learn.

Launched in September 2016, the Programme will see at least 5,000 young people in England on track towards a high level of fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020. The IOE’s Confucius Institute is the lead partner in the Programme, which is funded by the Department for Education, in partnership with the British Council.

While uptake of Mandarin in UK schools is growing, Mandarin Chinese GCSEs currently make up around one per cent of overall language GCSEs taken. Last year, just over 3,500 Mandarin Chinese GCSEs were sat in England compared to around 140,000 French GCSEs.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:

“Studying Mandarin Chinese is both personally enriching for students and a useful means of boosting future career prospects in our globally competitive economy. Thanks to the Mandarin Excellence Programme we are funding, thousands of students will be on track to a high level of fluency in the language in the coming years.   

“This competition provides an excellent platform for pupils to show what can be achieved through studying Mandarin Chinese at school, and I congratulate them on reaching this stage.”     

Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council said: “Mandarin Chinese matters – both to the UK’s future prosperity and to the personal career opportunities of those who speak it. Without more people in our workforce who can understand and communicate effectively with one of the world’s biggest economies, there’s a real risk that the UK will struggle to remain competitive on the world stage.

“On top of that, learning Mandarin is a fascinating process that brings with it a valuable understanding of contemporary and historical Chinese culture. Now more than ever, we need more young people leaving school with a good grasp of Mandarin Chinese in order to successfully work abroad or for multinational businesses here in the UK. This competition is a wonderful celebration of the best of Mandarin teaching and learning across the UK and I hope that more schools will give their pupils the option of learning this vital language.”