Two MEP female students in the classroom with PCs in the background, holding up paper boats and mascots while smiling at the camera.
The British Council, IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society, and the Center for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC) have announced that more than 1,500 secondary school students from 64 schools across England will take part in a two-week Mandarin Excellence Programme virtual study trip to China between 4 to 15 July.

Building on the success of the first Mandarin Excellence Programme virtual visit to China in 2021, the interactive programme designed by the British Council and IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society offers students a real-life focus on learning Mandarin Chinese and aims to foster cultural understanding and mutual appreciation.

Over the two-week period, the 64 participating English secondary state schools will join the programme simultaneously each day, connecting virtually to 16 host institutions across 11 Chinese mainland cities.

Through the programme, students will deepen their knowledge of Chinese language and culture through the learning themes of panda zoo, sport and modern life, Chinese school, history and cultural heritage.

Students will also enjoy a virtual tour of the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Xi’an; learn Chinese songs, Chinese martial arts and traditional arts; and host online music and poetry festivals with their Chinese peers.

Funded by the Department for Education (England) and delivered by UCL Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council, the Mandarin Excellence Programme is a unique intensive language programme that started in 2016 and there are now around 8,000 pupils enrolled on the programme in 75 schools in England. 

The programme has exceeded its target of seeing at least 5,000 pupils in England on track towards fluency in the language by 2020 and has had a positive impact on the supply of Mandarin teachers by increasing the number of opportunities for teaching practice. A large majority of the participating schools across England are now committed to retaining Mandarin Chinese on the curriculum in the long term.

The host universities in China supporting the virtual study trip this year include:

  • Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language School, East China Normal University
  • Beijing: University of International Business and Economics, Beijing Language and Culture University, Beijing International Chinese College, Beijing Normal University (new)
  • Xi'an: Xi'an International Studies University
  • Chengdu: Southwest Jiaotong University (new)
  • Chongqing: Chongqing No.1 Secondary School (new)
  • Jinan: Shandong University
  • Kunming: Yunnan Normal University
  • Shenyang: Shenyang Normal University
  • Hangzhou: Zhejiang Normal University
  • Dalian: Dalian University of Foreign Languages; Liaoning Normal University (new) 
  • Tianjin: Tianjin Normal University

Highlighting the importance of the programme to the UK, British Council Director China Matt Burney said:

“I’m delighted to see that through our Mandarin Excellence Programme, we are connecting the young generation of people in the UK and China through language learning. Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken first language in the world. I look forward to seeing more UK pupils acquire the skill of Mandarin language and work together with their Chinese peers to deepen the trust and understanding of our two countries.”

Katharine Carruthers, Mandarin Excellence Programme Strategic Director at UCL Institute of Education, said:

“MEP students in England are making substantial progress in their Chinese language learning. This virtual language learning trip to China for Year 9 is a highlight in their progression. We are delighted to be able to offer the students a unique digital environment so they can develop new skills while immersing themselves in Chinese language and culture. It also gives them an excellent opportunity to interact with Chinese peers and to perfect what they have learnt so far in their classrooms in England. It is an important step on their journey to fluency in Mandarin.”

Jianfei Ma, Director General of the Centre for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC) also comments:

“Learning Chinese has become the choice of many young people internationally. This is the fourth year we have worked with the British Council on the Mandarin Excellence Programme. We hope that through the in-depth virtual study experience, participating UK students will enhance their ability to use Chinese in real-life situations, and will better prepare them for a more complex and competitive international job market.”

Follow the latest updates on Twitter #MandarinExcellence 

Watch some of the highlights of the 2021 virtual China trip 

See also