Mandarin Excellence Programme 2019 | Trip to China

Ark Evelyn Grace Academy pupils return from China trip on track towards Mandarin fluency

A group of Year 8 pupils from Ark Evelyn Grace Academy in Lambeth have returned from a bespoke two-week intensive study visit to Shenyang City in China as part of a flagship government language programme, delivered by the UCL Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council. The programme aims to get at least 5000 pupils in England on track towards fluency in Mandarin by 2020.

The pupils, all aged 12 and 13, are learning Mandarin as part of the Department for Education’s Mandarin Excellence Programme.

More than 800 pupils from schools across England travelled to China as part of the programme, where they were hosted by universities in cities including Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai and put their Mandarin skills into practice in a range of real-life situations from shopping to taking public transport.

The intensive study visit gave the group of 13 pupils from Ark Evelyn Grace Academy the opportunity to boost the language skills they have already gained since they started studying Mandarin in September 2017. Over the course of two weeks they attended 40 hours of Mandarin lessons at Shenyang University, participated in arts and cultural workshops, and worked on projects with Chinese counterparts at host schools.

Pupils also enjoyed Chinese cultural events such as traditional Chinese music and paper cuttings, Peking Opera, martial arts and so much more. In addition to this, alongside their studies, students had the opportunity to visit attractions such as the Imperial Palace, museums and local markets.

Mr Tim Dainty, Principal at Ark Evelyn Grace Academy said “This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students. They have grown and learnt so much from it. I am very proud of them. I am extremely grateful to Miss Findlay, Miss Sun and Mr Jabrane for working so hard in organising and leading this trip. "

As the first initiative of its kind, the Mandarin Excellence Programme gives pupils an unprecedented opportunity when it comes to language learning in England. Pupils take on an average of eight hours of Mandarin study every week in order to reach a proficient level of ability in a comparatively short time.

Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world and is recognised as a valuable skill for young people in the UK to acquire, with 77 per cent of British business leaders surveyed in 2018 saying that speaking Mandarin will give school leavers a career advantage. Meanwhile, research by the British Council has found that Mandarin is the second most important foreign language for the UK’s influence on the global stage.

Ms Fiona Findlay, Vice Principal at Ark Evelyn Grace Academy said "This is not just an intensive Mandarin speaking programme, it is so much more. Our students not only got the chance to have intensive learning time in and out of the classroom, they also got to see and experience the rich cultural heritage of China. Very few 12 and 13 year olds that have had an opportunity such as this at this age. It was clear to see during the 2 weeks we were there that students character grew due to the experience as well as them becoming more confident and fluent in speaking Mandarin. As adults we know that life changing events, such as this, affect our futures. In years to come these students will recognise what an impact this trip has had to mould and change their futures."

Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gibb said: “This intensive study visit provided pupils from Ark Evelyn Grace Academy with a wonderful opportunity to enhance their Mandarin skills and experience first-hand the culture that shapes this incredibly important language. Young people fluent in Mandarin will be at a significant advantage when competing for jobs with their peers from around the world. That is why we introduced the Mandarin Excellence Programme, which is on track to have 5,000 pupils fluent in Mandarin by 2020. The enthusiasm and energy that both pupils and teachers are committing to this programme is inspiring and will help build a Britain that’s fit for the future in an increasingly global economy.”