Education | June 7, 2012 By Mike Bastin. Currently, there are only one-hundred Chinese language teachers across the whole of the United Kingdom (U.K), a pitifully low figure. Yet, it was only in the autumn of 2010 when the British Government announced publicly a new partnership withChinato train one-thousand Mandarin teachers for secondary schools. Even though the British are notorious for their aversion to learning foreign languages, this lack of suitable Chinese language teachers and resources represents a huge challenge for the future of the U.K economy. What little foreign language education taking place across U.K schools still centres on European languages such as French, German, Spanish and Italian. These languages remain the priority despite the emergence ofChinaand the Chinese economy. The U.K is likely to continue to fall behind competitor nations such as the U.S where far more investment is taking place in laying the foundations of a comprehensive Chinese language education system right across the country’s schools. So, what can be done to change this dire situation in U.K schools? Surprisingly, a lack of suitable teachers is not the biggest obstacle. According to the latest U.K population census there are around 250,000 Chinese people living in the U.K, many of whom are university students. This group is surely the starting point for teacher training and recruitment? Having taught Chinese students in the U.K for many years, I am well aware of their suitability and desire to teach their Mother tongue to British people. Of course what is also essential is a shift in emphasis from European to Asian languages and Chinese in particular. Such a change in direction can only be led by the U.K government and senior personnel within U.K schools. Investment now will lead to immense benefits long into the future, such as investment in resources and facilities. With no history of Chinese language teaching in the U.K, it is vital that sizeable investment takes place and a comprehensive Chinese language learning environment is established across U.K schools. U.K schoolchildren, at present, have no other place to practice Chinese other than in the classroom and with their Chinese language teacher. Any such prioritization of the Chinese language within U.K government and school and consequent cash injection, also needs to be matched with the following key initiatives and objectives: Every U.K school should identify a suitable Chinese school and establish a firm, lasting partnership. This will involve regular correspondence between staff and pupils and increasingly frequent school trips. U.K schoolchildren will then develop friendships with their Chinese counterparts which will no doubt accelerate their language development. Chinese language classes should be made compulsory across all U.K schools and a minimum of one hour’s teaching per day should take place. This may appear too ambitious and may even be infeasible in many cases; however it is with only such dramatic change that acknowledgement and acceptance of the strategic importance of the Chinese language could be achieved. Over the next three years, at least two-thirds of the U.K’s schools should have achieved points 1 and 2 above. Increasing globalisation means that learning a language is no longer an option, a social nicety, it is an economic necessity and the Chinese language is the absolute priority. At present parents of U.K schoolchildren will more often than not be keen to ask their children’s teachers, ‘how is their English？’, ‘how is their Maths？’, but in the not too distant future the first comment should be, ‘how is their Chinese？’ ! Mike Bastin is PhD student at School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham. Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors. Have Confucius Institutes become the battlefield of US-China public diplomacy? Guangdong Guerilla Marketing – The Weather Girls Win!