by Paul Foy
The government has announced that it is to launch a programme to train 1000 new Chinese language teachers over the next five years.
The announcement coincides with Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Beijing alongside Michael Gove MP, the Education Secretary, and a large business delegation. The trip is part of an effort to forge closer commercial ties with China.
There is a significant increase in demand for Mandarin to be taught in secondary schools in Britain, with many parents recognising China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse, and seeing the language as of greater importance that the French, German and Spanish classes, traditionally offered in schools.
The shortage of Chinese language teachers is currently the most serious obstacle to meeting the rapidly increasing demand for the opportunity to learn Chinese, and the government is hopeful that the programme will be the first step towards resolving this.
Teachers will be trained up through a combination of short courses in UK universities, as well as a special summer training course at Beijing University.
The announcement comes amidst some controversy, after it was revealed that Prime Minister Cameron risks upsetting the Chinese Government, by championing the virtues of democracy and human rights in a speech he is due to give to students at Beijing University later today.
The speech, which has not be shown to, or given clearance by Chinese officials, and will unlikely be reported in the Chinese media, has been defended by those at 10 Downing St.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Cameron said : “Of course we shouldn’t be lecturing and hectoring but it is right we have a dialogue on these things,”.
In the speech, Cameron will tell the students: “All the time the government is subject to the rule of law. These are constraints on the government, and at times they can be frustrating when the courts take a view with which the government differ, but ultimately we believe that they make our government better and our country stronger.”
The British delegation caused further upset as Ministers insisted on wearing Remembrance Day Poppies at a banquet last night. Chinese officials informed the Ministers that it was inappropriate to wear the poppies, due to the opium wars. The ministers explained the significance of the poppies to Britons, and continued to wear them.