The GCSE results are fresh off the press and together with last weeks A-Level results the trends amongst GCSE and A-level choices are becoming clear, here are some of the results for Mandarin A-levels and GCSE’s, and in comparison, the same results for another modern language, German:
For A-Levels, its definitely a pretty picture:
“Chinese has become more popular among sixth formers than German for the first time – with 3,334 students taking the subject this year compared to 3,058 students who sat exams in the European language.”
For GCSE’s it’s good news, but there’s a twist:
“Chinese – which is now the third biggest language subject at A-level – saw its GCSE entries rise. GCSE entries in Mandarin increased by 7.5 per cent from 4,104 in 2017 to 4,410 this year. The subject is now the fifth most popular GCSE language, after Italian. German entries rose from 43,649 in 2017 to 44,535 this year – an increase of 2 per cent.”
What I find most interesting is that similarity in numbers, roughly 4,000 students took a GCSE in Mandarin, and 3,000 did an A-level in it, another 3,000 did a German A-level also. What that means for Mandarin is that by and large most students who take the subject for GCSE, carry it on to A-level. Whilst out of a whopping 44,000 German GCSE students we should only expect roughly 3,000 which is only 5.5% of that number to carry on and with it to A-level.
There are many interesting things we can learn from these numbers, firstly that there are a lot more schools across the country offering a GCSE in German than in Mandarin, which is a shame. I’ll get on to why Mandarin is such an important in a minute but the shortage of schools offering the language is something that should be addressed! The Chinese government does actually have a dedicated organisation within its department of education that is devoted to promoting Chinese language and culture and goes by the name of the Confucius Institute. In theory the Confucius Institute should be there to link up local schools and universities to qualified Mandarin teachers who can then work in the schools on a full or part time basis, but in practice the institute itself is rather a shady beast and has lately been criticised by many who claim it is just a vehicle which the Chinese government uses to try to influence political thought in university campuses and report back to the government in Beijing. It seems to most onlookers that the Confucius Institute is more of an espionage organisation than an educational one, which is a shame. It is clear from the rising popularity of the Mandarin that many schools would offer the language, if they had a teacher to teach it.
So if the Chinese Government isn’t succeeding to encourage more schools to offer Mandarin classes then it should be down to our government and department of education to do so, which it has done, to some extent. The UK government with the help of the British Council (which is the UK’s equivalent of the Confucius Institute, minus the political infiltration and espionage) has set up its Mandarin Excellence Program for schools in England, the program aims to
get at least 5,000 pupils on track to fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020. The program has seen only limited success with the main setback being labeled, yet again, as a lack of teachers.
As is seen time and again in many different areas, when a problem arises, we turn to the government to solve it. The government announces an ambitious solution with much fanfare and applause and then a while later reports back disappointing results. Nothing new under the sun, unfortunately. So we have to look inwards at our own local communities and schools to find a local, grassroots solution to the problem. You may or may not have noticed that all of the discussion about GCSE’s and the Mandarin Excellence Program are relevant just to senior school students from 11 and up. Education starts much earlier than that! No one seems to be talking about language learning in primary schools. As I have mentioned in my previous blog posts, there is no age too young to start learning a language, and in fact, younger Children have been shown to pick up languages much faster than older ones. Which is why it is even more crucial to promote Mandarin language learning at an earlier age.
That's where Little Mandarin Classes comes in. Little Mandarin Classes promotes the language amongst younger students who will in time grow up to be senior school students who have already gained an exposure to the language, and are then much more likely to request that their senior school provides Mandarin tuition. In addition Little Mandarin Classes also gives exposure to their teachers and instructors, many of whom may not have previously considered teaching as their chosen career path and who may very well go on to gain the relevant qualifications needed to teach Mandarin at GCSE and A-level levels. In just a few short years Little Mandarin Classes has grown its presence to over 50 schools in London and has now opened franchises in other areas of the country. If their growth is anything to go by, in just a few short years once these young learners grow into young adults, we should see GCSE and A-level numbers rising steadily and bringing the benefits and wonders of Chinese language and culture to a whole new generation of young British students!