The Prime Minister has pledged to increase the number of people learning Mandarin Chinese in the UK from 200,000 to 400,000 by 2020. Offering more young people the chance to learn Mandarin will help in our efforts to encourage mobility between the UK and China and help ensure the long-term success of our economy and society.
A number of organisations are carrying out activity to further these aims. The British Council is working with Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International, to increase demand for Mandarin teaching in UK schools and to address accessibility, for example by increasing the provision of Chinese Language Assistants. The Institute of Education's Confucius Institute is working with HSBC to promote more teaching of Mandarin in primary schools; and the Confucius Institute is also running the ‘Accelerating Mandarin Chinese for London’ programme. The grant for this comes from the £24 million London Schools Excellence Fund, set up by the Mayor of London, with funding from the Department for Education. The Department is taking a close interest in this work and providing encouragement and support at a high level.
We have also introduced a foreign language at key stage 2 (ages seven to 11) as part of the new national curriculum which comes into force from September 2014; and the inclusion of a modern or ancient language in the English Baccalaureate is already encouraging more young people to take a language at GCSE level. The numbers sitting a language GCSE are now at a five-year-high, with entries for Chinese rising by around 20% in 2012-13.