THOUSANDS of children across the Capital are studying Mandarin – as schools here surge ahead of counterparts in the rest of Scotland.
New figures show 2576 youngsters were taking lessons in the language last year, with 29 city primary schools and 12 secondaries now providing dedicated tuition.
The important thing for the school and city is to do things slowly so it become sustainable”JACK SIMPSON
And a further five high schools have expressed an interest in participating.
Teachers said only a handful of pupils in the city were preparing for formal Mandarin exams but stressed that there had been a huge increase in the numbers gaining early-stage contact with the language.
Around one in three primaries is providing classes – up from just four schools in 2010-11 and well ahead of a national figure of one in 20. The figures have been hailed by experts, who said it was essential that youngsters are “China-ready”.
Jack Simpson, headteacher at Leith Academy, which hosts a Confucius classroom hub for the delivery of lessons and staff training in Mandarin, said: “It’s still early days.
“I think the important thing, both for the school and the city as a whole, is to do things slowly so it becomes sustainable. If you’re talking about the number of pupils actually preparing for National 5 and Higher exams, that’s still in single figures.
“But all of our second-year pupils now get a taster in Mandarin, which also becomes an option in S3 and S4, when they have up to three or four periods a week.”
He said the appointment of specialist staff had been a key factor.
As well as a full-time and a probationer Mandarin teacher, the city has two additional members of staff funded by Hanban, China’s national office for promoting language and culture. Mandarin-speaking stu- dents living in the Capital have also been visiting primary schools to help teach pupils.
“I think the city council moving to appoint a full-time Mandarin teacher showed a real level of commitment,” said Mr Simpson.
Judith McClure, ambassador for the teaching and learning of Chinese at Edinburgh University’s Confucius Institute, said: “China is moving towards having a peaceful but significant influence in the world and that’s very important for all of us.
“We also have to remember that the Chinese are great visitors to Scotland.
“We need young people who are able to communicate in some way with them.”
City bosses said they were “committed” to supporting the future growth of Mandarin across Edinburgh.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Mandarin is now widely recognised as a language which brings great advantages for our learners, educationally, economically and culturally so it’s fantastic to see so many of our schools starting to use it.”