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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2008, 18:16 GMT
Demand brings a new Chinese GCSE
Chinese reader
Chinese is growing in popularity
A new GCSE in Chinese is being made available in response to demand from schools and business.

People will be able to study for the new qualification from September, England's biggest exam board announced.

The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) said the course would give pupils the language skills that businesses will want in future.

The Conservatives say the government should do more to promote Chinese. The Edexcel board already has Chinese GCSE.

A spokeswoman for AQA said: "Interest in China and Chinese has grown quickly over the past few years, reflecting its increasing importance politically and economically.

"Organisations including teachers associations, the British Council and the CBI have called for more teaching of Mandarin Chinese in schools."

Independent schools

A range of Chinese courses at lower levels is also being introduced, the board said.

"With GCSE about to be revised and the Beijing Olympics in 2008 - which is sure to raise the profile of Chinese even further - this is the ideal time to launch these new qualifications," the spokeswoman said.

Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, had called for an easier Mandarin GCSE, saying (in 2006) that the existing exam was geared towards native speakers and was too hard.

A government-commissioned report issued late last year found that 7% of all schools offered Mandarin to 14 to 16-year-olds.

The government says 10 to 13% of all secondary schools in England provide some Mandarin teaching (7% to 8% of all maintained schools; between 25% and 33% of all independent schools).

But GCSE entries for Mandarin taken by 15-year-olds have declined by 14% since 2001, according to the report by the National Centre for Languages (Cilt).

Competitive future

The Conservatives say the government should be doing more to promote modern languages such as Mandarin.

They say just two Mandarin graduates trained as teachers last year.

Shadow Children's secretary Michael Gove said: "We were told that children will have the chance to learn Mandarin but now the government's own report highlights the shockingly low level of provision in state schools.

"The government should be promoting more modern languages like Mandarin to equip our children properly for an increasingly competitive future."

A spokeswoman for the DCSF said the government was promoting Chinese.

"The numbers of students taking GCSE Mandarin has risen from 1,204 ten years ago to 2,159 now," she said.

"Four hundred and fifty students and 85 teachers took part in British Council Chinese immersion courses in July 2007 in four different cities.

"There are 85 Chinese language assistants in English schools starting this September, funded through the British Council/HSBC language assistants programme."



SEE ALSO
School 'snobbery' over languages
16 May 06 |  Education
Call for pupils to learn Mandarin
15 Feb 06 |  Education
School language decline continues
03 Nov 05 |  Education
Mandarin learning soars outside China
09 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Call for easier Chinese exams
27 Feb 06 |  Education
Seven-year-olds learning Chinese
23 May 06 |  Education
How hard is it to learn Chinese?
17 Jan 06 |  Magazine
College makes Chinese compulsory
16 Jan 06 |  Southern Counties

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