The Chinese Language Teacher “Incubator” at University College London

[Source]    Global Times [Time]    2017-11-27 18:14:09 

In recent years, “Chinese Craze” has been heating up in the United Kingdom (UK), where more and more regular primary and secondary schools have offered Chinese language teaching. But are there enough Chinese language teachers? A journalist of the Global Times learned that there is a Chinese language teacher “incubator” in the UK, namely, the Confucius Institute at University College London (UCL) Institute of Education (IOE).

UCL is a world-renowned top institution of higher education. UCL, together with the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, Imperial College London and the London School of Economics, are known as the “G5 super-elite universities”. Established in 2006, the Confucius Institute at UCL Institute of Education was co-founded by Peking University and UCL, which undertakes the training of Chinese language teachers for primary and secondary schools in the UK. The institute has established Confucius Classroom in 45 primary and secondary schools across the UK, teaching 12,101 students. In 2016, there were 3,500 students attending the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) Chinese (Mandarin) examination, an increase of 70% over 2008.

Why are more and more students learning Chinese? When interviewed by the journalist from the Global Times, Katharine Carruthers, Director of IOE Confucius Institute, said that, on one hand, it has something to do with the economy. China is growing stronger and many British parents come to do business in China. They find that China is playing a very important role in the world and hope that their children can learn Chinese well at an early age. On the other hand, it is out of the need for communication. In the UK, there are more and more Chinese with whom the British need to communicate with. In addition, British students are interested in Chinese culture. Now many British children think that it is cool to know how to write Chinese characters especially because their parents are not able to write them.

The Confucius Institute at UCL Institute of Education is the only institution in the UK that offers professional training of Chinese language teaching. Throughout the training, students will spend one third of their time attending classes in the institute, one third on internship in one school and one third on internship in another school. Besides, there are also special teaching courses lectured by Chinese language experts. Carruthers explained that there are more and more British undergraduates learning Chinese. They used to think that learning Chinese would not secure them a job after graduation, but now learning Chinese can promise them bright prospects. “This year, there are 15 students proceeding to the teacher status (QTS), among whom 5 are British and 10 are Chinese who have long been living in the UK”.

In order to have more schools offer Chinese courses, the Confucius Institute at UCL Institute of Education has created a “center plus surrounding influence” model. That means if one primary or secondary school applies for the institute’s Confucius Classroom, it has to make plans to assist the surrounding schools in offering Chinese courses, which generates influence on other schools.

In September 2016, the British government invested £10 million in promoting the "Mandarin Excellence Program" aiming to cultivate 5,000 British students who will have a good command of Chinese by 2020. The program was implemented by the Confucius Institute at UCL Institute of Education in a detailed manner, including training teachers and providing teaching materials for some schools. Children are required to spend 8 hours on learning Chinese every week, including 4 hours learning in class and 4 hours of independent learning after class. Carruthers told the Global Times that it may not be a big deal to spend 8 hours learning a foreign language for most Chinese students. For an 11-year-old British child, however, spending 1 or 2 hours every week learning a foreign language is already a great deal of time. It is therefore unprecedented for them to spare 8 hours to learn Chinese. They have never spent such a large amount of time learning other foreign languages such as French and German. The great importance the British government has attached to Chinese language is thus all the more evident.

The first batch of students participating in the “Mandarin Excellence program” are aged between 11 and 12. After a year’s learning, they all received good marks of at least 80% in the specially designed listening, speaking, reading and writing tests. The journalist of the Global Times read the Chinese essays written by several students. Although the handwritings were not very neat, the sentences were fluent and were almost free from any spelling mistakes. Carruthers, who once was an examiner for Chinese test for many years, told the journalist, “This is fairly impressive given that these essays are written by students who have learned Chinese for just one year.”

The UK leads in Europe when it comes to Chinese language teaching in primary and secondary schools. It is known that many Chinese language teachers in Italy hope to obtain a teacher status (QTS) in Chinese Teaching in the UK. Katharine Carruthers said, “We dedicate ourselves to becoming the cradle of Chinese language teacher training throughout the UK and expanding our training programs in other English-speaking countries”.

(Story by Bi Fangyuan, Global Times)


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