The Mandarin Excellence Programme is achieving its ambition to create a cohort of more than 5,000 pupils in England on the path to fluency in Mandarin, an evaluation of the Department for Education-funded programme, which is delivered by the UCL Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council, has found.
The Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) is an intensive language programme that sees secondary school pupils studying Mandarin for eight hours a week, starting in Year 7. There are currently more than 6,500 pupils from state schools across England participating on the programme.
Mandarin is the most-spoken language in the world. British Council research has identified it as the second most important language for the UK’s future prosperity, security and influence in the world.
The MEP evaluation report looks at the impact of the first four years of the programme, from September 2016 to the end of March 2020. Key findings include:
- The MEP remains on track to achieving its overall ambition of creating a cohort of more than 5,000 pupils in state schools in England on the path to fluency in Mandarin.
- Pupils sitting annual Mandarin ‘Hurdle tests’ at the end of each school year are achieving excellent results.
- The first cohort of MEP pupils who joined the programme in September 2016 are on track to obtain strong GCSE results.
- Teachers reported that pupils on the programme demonstrate increased and accelerated learning and a much broader language and cultural knowledge base relative to non-MEP learners.
- The teaching hours and relatively continuous exposure to the language are unique to the MEP, and is what teachers believe is really making the difference to the speed and quality of learning outcomes.
- The programme has multiple benefits including reinforcing language learning, offering a unique and sometimes life-changing cultural experience, and building pupils’ confidence, resilience and self-esteem.
- The MEP can be seen as a catalyst and accelerator for the uptake of Mandarin in the state sector, with the financial and teaching support it offers enabling schools to quickly implement the delivery of an intensive, high-quality language programme.
- The MEP is having a positive impact on the supply of Mandarin teachers by increasing the number of opportunities for teaching practice. In the 2019/20 academic year MEP schools offered twenty placements to Mandarin PGCE students.
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “Foreign languages are hugely important in today’s global economy and Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language in the world. The 7,000 students on the programme are building outstanding fluency in both written and spoken language and are giving themselves a valuable edge when competing for jobs with their peers from around the world. I am particularly pleased to see there are several schools in disadvantaged areas which have embraced the programme, demonstrating its ability to raise expectations across the country and make sure every young person has access to the same opportunities, no matter where they grow up.”
Katharine Carruthers, Mandarin Excellence Programme Strategic Director at UCL Institute of Education, said: “The first four years of the Mandarin Excellence Programme have been a tremendous success and I am delighted that the independent evaluation published today reflects that. We now have almost 7,000 pupils studying Chinese on the MEP who really are achieving excellence. The schools and the Mandarin teachers who are at the forefront of delivering the programme should be congratulated on making the programme such a triumph and the students should be immensely proud of their progress.”
Mark Herbert, Director of Schools & TVET at the British Council, said: “The Mandarin Excellence Programme has met its ambition to put more than 5,000 pupils on the path to fluency in Mandarin, which is one of the most important languages for young people in the UK to learn right now. Speaking another language brings many benefits, from boosting job prospects to connecting with different cultures. The MEP will help to build stronger links and mutual trust between the UK and China, which is essential for future trade, prosperity and cooperation.”