Mandarin for all pupils, says UK Schools Secretary
Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary in the UK, has said that every secondary school student should have the opportunity to learn Mandarin, and other ‘up and coming’ languages.
With mandatory language study for seven-to-11-year-olds coming into effect next year, this recommendation will no doubt spread to primary schools.
Even though students will by no means be forced to study Chinese (any language will do), there have been a lot of arguments against attempting to make the language accessible to every student. For a start, where will these teachers come from? There are very few students studying Mandarin at present, and most teachers would come from that demographic. It has been suggested that there would be specialist language centres that students would go to in order to study, but is this a practical solution? Another major argument is that Chinese is only the predicted most-useful foreign language for kids of this generation (although other recommendations are Russian, Polish, and even Indonesian). When I was growing up, Japanese was the next big thing, and it wasn’t so long ago that people thought everyone would need to speak Russian. Will Chinese ever be useful to the everyman in the UK?
I think that the focus should be taken of the specific languages being recommended, and put on the fact that kids will need to do second language study. Although I was quick to drop languages when I was younger, I did enjoy them, and wish I had continued for longer. If we can instil a love for language learning in the next generations, regardless of the language they choose, it will never be a bad thing.
Which language do you think will be essential in the next 10 or 15 years?