Homewood students take pioneering trip to China

Homewood students take pioneering trip to China

Year 8 students from Homewood School & Sixth Form Centre joined hundreds of pupils from across England on a two-week intensive learning trip to Beijing in China to hone their Mandarin Chinese language skills.

The pupils embarked on their trip as part of the school’s participation in the Department for Education’s Mandarin Excellence Programme. The intensive language programme, delivered by the UCL Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council, will see 5,000 school pupils in England on track towards fluency in Mandarin by 2020.

The trip to China has given 23 Homewood students, all aged 12 and 13, the opportunity to boost the language skills they have already gained since they started learning Mandarin in September 2016.

The programme for the visit to China was especially created to accelerate the children’s learning of Mandarin and knowledge of China. Each morning of the trip, the UCL Institute of Education and the British Council arranged for the students to attend intensive Mandarin lessons at a local host university in Beijing. The afternoons were then spent putting what they had learnt into practice, with real-life tasks such as buying groceries at a local market or using public transport.

The pupils also enjoyed cultural events and, alongside their studies, had the chance to visit the Great Wall of China and to practice speaking Mandarin.

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

Mrs Sally Lees, Principal of Homewood School, said: “We have been an enthusiastic partner school in the Mandarin Excellence Programme since 2016 and were in the very first cohort of schools invited to join the programme. To have the opportunity to visit China after two years of studying Mandarin is a fantastic element of the programme and has enabled our students to apply what they have learnt in a real context.

“We believe that young people with proficiency in Mandarin will have an important advantage in their future career opportunities in the global jobs market, and they will learn a lot about working with people from other countries too.”

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

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for these pupils not only to enhance their skills in this immensely important language but to understand the culture that shapes it.

“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.”

Schools in England can find out more about the programme and register their interest here: https://ci.ioe.ac.uk/mandarin-excellence-programme/