Wednesday 18 August 2021

An innovative language programme that aims to get school pupils in England on track to fluency in Mandarin Chinese has had its contract extended for a further three years. The Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP), delivered by UCL Institute of Education (IOE) in partnership with the British Council and funded by the Department for Education, is set to welcome a new cohort of pupils this September.

Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world and, according to British Council research, one of the most important languages for Britain’s future. Since 2016, the MEP has equipped nearly 6500 pupils with the language skills and cultural knowledge necessary to compete in the global jobs market.

Around 2000 new Year 7 pupils will join the programme each year from September 2021, from 75 schools across England. They will receive intensive Mandarin learning made up of four taught hours and four hours of self-study – significantly more time than most schools spend on a language. This will include the provision of innovative online and blended learning and training making best use of technology.

A key part of the programme will be a two-week residential intensive-learning course in China for Year 9 pupils. International trips with a strong focus on language and culture can offer unique and sometimes life-changing experiences, building confidence and resilience and shaping future study and career choices. The British Council has previously found that nearly two thirds of language students at university were inspired to study a language degree because of an international exchange trip whilst at school.

UCL IOE will continue to develop a motivated and sustainable network of Chinese language teachers, with 20 new teachers to be recruited annually through its PGCE Mandarin pathway. Many of the teachers trained on the pathway are recruited by MEP schools

 For more than 15 years, UCL IOE and the British Council have led the way in introducing and spreading innovation in Mandarin provision, with national initiatives including work to secure a major expansion in the teaching and learning of Mandarin Chinese throughout the English school system, the PGCE Mandarin pathway, Chinese teaching assistants, and the Mandarin Speaking Competition. Together they successfully delivered the MEP from 2016 to 2021, achieving their aim of getting more than 5000 pupils on track to fluency in Mandarin.

Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards, said: “The Mandarin Excellence Programme has enabled more than 6,000 pupils in over 70 schools to learn one of the great world languages. Committing to 8 hours a week of study, these pupils are on their way to fluency in Mandarin. It has been a hugely successful programme, which is why I’m delighted to be able to announce its continuation and a further £16.4 million of funding.”

Katharine Carruthers, Director of the UCL IOE Confucius Institute said: “I am delighted that UCL Institute of Education and the British Council have been selected to deliver the next phase of the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP). This is an exciting and ground-breaking initiative – nothing else like it exists. Over the last five years, MEP schools and teachers have achieved fantastic outcomes with their pupils, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to achieve success and to develop more fluent Mandarin speakers over the coming years.”

Mark Herbert, Director Schools and TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) at the British Council, said: “Mandarin is one of the languages that matter most to the UK’s prosperity, and the British Council is delighted to continue its involvement in the Mandarin Excellence Programme. Over the coming years, this programme will help thousands of young people in England to develop the language expertise and intercultural skills which will open the door to a whole world of study and career opportunities.”

Notes to Editor

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 Mandarin Excellence Programme: background 

The Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) is an intensive language programme funded by the Department for Education and delivered by UCL Institute of Education (IOE) in partnership with the British Council.

The MEP was launched in 2016, initially for four years, and successfully achieved the goal of getting more than 5000 pupils on track to fluency in Mandarin by 2020. The programme was extended to 2021 and there are currently almost 6,500 pupils on the programme. More than 1300 pupils have participated in the intensive study course in China since 2016.

In August 2021 the Department for Education confirmed that the Mandarin Excellence Programme will continue to be delivered by UCL IOE in partnership with the British Council for a further three years from 2021-2023 (with the option to extend for one extra year), with the next cohort of 2,000 pupils enrolling in September 2021.

The primary aim of the programme is to ensure that England has a regular cohort of high-potential pupils with access to high-quality and intensive Mandarin education. The MEP provides an opportunity for pupils to progress their Mandarin and gain awareness of Chinese culture, to the benefit of the pupils and the UK at large. 

Going forward, this will be achieved by maintaining 75 schools on the programme. Pupils will study Mandarin for eight hours a week – made up of a combination of class-time teaching, after-school teaching, self-study and intensive study in China – to ensure that they reach a high level of fluency during the programme.

 About UCL Institute of Education

UCL is a diverse community with the freedom to challenge and think differently.

Our community of more than 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems.

We are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world and are one of only a handful of institutions rated as having the strongest academic reputation and the broadest research impact. 

We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research – championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors.  

For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge. 

We were the first in England to welcome women to university education and that courageous attitude and disruptive spirit is still alive today. We are UCL. | Follow @uclnews on Twitter | Watch our YouTube channel | Listen to UCL podcasts on SoundCloud | Find out what’s on at UCL Minds | #MadeAtUCL

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We build connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. Last year we reached over 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive a 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.