IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Speaking Mandarin will give school leavers career advantage, say 77 per cent of business leaders

11 April 2018

More than three in four British business leaders believe speaking Mandarin will give school leavers a career advantage over their counterparts, according to a survey published today (11 April 2018).

Pupils at Mandarin Excellence Programme event

Amongst over 1,000 senior business decision makers questioned by YouGov for the UCL Institute of Education-delivered Mandarin Excellence Programme, more than three quarters of respondents said that speaking a high level of Mandarin would be beneficial to school pupils in their future careers.

On average, 28 per cent thought that the advantage would be 'significant' - with this rising to 31 per cent amongst those working for companies with an annual turnover of £10 million or more.

While 69 per cent of those surveyed felt that Mandarin Chinese skills, particularly speaking, would be important for British business and the economy in future, 66 per cent said that it was currently difficult to recruit fluent speakers from within the UK workforce. When asked about language learning more widely, 82 per cent agreed that language teaching in schools "should reflect important potential growth markets for British trade and business".

Commissioned by the Mandarin Excellence Programme, the new survey aims to understand more about the language needs of British businesses, with a particular focus on Mandarin.

Funded by the Department for Education - and delivered by the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) in partnership with the British Council - the Mandarin Excellence Programme aims to see at least 5,000 young people in England on track towards fluency in Mandarin by 2020.

Recent British Council research has found that Mandarin will be the most important non-European language to the UK post-Brexit - and second only to Spanish overall.

Katharine Carruthers, Director of the IOE Confucius Institute for Schools, said:

"The findings of this survey confirm that young people achieving high levels of fluency in Chinese by participating in the Mandarin Excellence Programme will be in demand in the job market. MEP pupils and their parents should be encouraged by this and employers can feel reassured that there are young people coming through the school system who can meet business needs when it comes to communicating with one of the UK's largest trading partners."

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:

"This research shows that young people fluent in Mandarin will be at a significant advantage when competing for jobs with their peers from around the world. That is why we introduced the Mandarin Excellence Programme, which is on track to have 5,000 pupils fluent in Mandarin by 2020. The enthusiasm and energy that both pupils and teachers are committing to this programme is inspiring, and will help Britain to compete in an increasingly global economy."

Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council, said:

"Learning a country's language connects you to its people and culture - a benefit which lasts a lifetime.  Everyone in the UK who learns some Mandarin builds another link between us and China, building greater mutual understanding and trust between our countries - the absolute bedrock of business, trade and prosperity for both nations in the future. Learning the language is also a really rewarding experience."

Media contact

Rowan Walker, UCL Media Relations
+44 (0)20 3108 8516



Credit: Phil Meech