Wales has announced the possibility of teaching Mandarin in schools, in a bid to establish the country as a visitor destination for the Chinese market.
The idea comes as part of a new international strategy to secure Wales against the potential effects of Brexit.
The strategy focuses on three areas – cyber security, compound semi-conductors and creative industries – all of which are known for their “resilience to Brexit”.
In the meantime, other ideas have been presented to make Wales more appealing as a thriving tourist destination to other parts of the world, including China.
International relations minister Baroness Morgan says she wants to “sell Wales to the world”, as well as ensuring that it does not lose business on the £17bn worth of exports it already sells to the EU.
She also added that she was “anxious” to change the Welsh Government’s relationship with the UK government to help sell Wales abroad, explaining they wanted the best possible Brexit deal and would be “constructive partners”.
As well as introducing Mandarin lessons in schools, other ideas put forward in Wales’ international strategy included:
- working with education institutions to increase the number of international students studying in Wales;
- hold a ‘Wales in Germany’ themed year in 2021;
- working with existing networks to build a global Welsh Diaspora social network of 500,000 people;
- promoting Wales as the ‘go-to’ nation for advice on minority language development.
Mandarin in Schools
Mandarin is currently one of the world’s most spoken languages, with 1.1 billion speakers worldwide.
Although uptake on Mandarin speaking in schools has been slow, recent studies show that it is starting to become more popular with schools and students in the UK.
There are currently 75 British schools taking part in the Mandarin Excellence Programme – a course offered through the IOE Confucius Institute to encourage and support Mandarin learning in schools. In 2018, there were more than 4,410 GCSE entries for Mandarin Chinese – up from 4,104 in 2017.
However, despite the interest in learning Mandarin, not all schools have embedded it into the curriculum. According to the British Council’s most recent Language Trends survey, Chinese is only offered as a GCSE option in 8% of state schools and 32% of independent schools.
It may be the case, then, that in order to stimulate the drive for more Mandarin learners, more qualified teachers of Chinese are needed, as well as more research on best teaching practices.