More than three in four British business leaders believe speaking Mandarin will give school leavers a career advantage over their counterparts, according to a survey published this week by YouGov. The new survey, commissioned by the Mandarin Excellence Programme, aims to understand more about the language needs of British businesses, with a particular focus on Mandarin.

Amongst over 1,000 senior business leaders questioned by YouGov for the Mandarin Excellence Programme, more than three quarters of them said that speaking a high level of Mandarin would be beneficial to school pupils in their future careers. On average, 28 per cent thought that the advantage would be ‘significant’. This rose to 31 per cent amongst those working for companies with an annual turnover of £10 million or more.

While 69 per cent of those surveyed felt that being able to speak Mandarin Chinese would be important for British business and the economy in the future, 66 per cent said that it was currently difficult to recruit fluent speakers from within the UK workforce. 82 per cent agreed that language teaching in schools “should reflect important potential growth markets for British trade and business”.

Here is a summary of the findings:

  • Speaking Mandarin will give school leavers career advantage, say 77 per cent of business leaders
  • British business leaders believe speaking Mandarin Chinese will give students an advantage in their careers, with 28 per cent saying this would be ‘significant’
  • 69 per cent believe that Mandarin skills will be important for the future of British business and the economy, but 66 per cent said that it was currently difficult to recruit employees who are fluent in Mandarin Chinese
  • 82 per cent agree that the choice of language subjects in schools should reflect important potential growth markets for British trade and business.

Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards said:

“Education standards are rising, with 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 but we must do more to ensure our education system is fit for the future demands of a modern economy. This research shows that 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 Britain to compete in an increasingly global economy.”

Katharine Carruthers, Director of the UCL Institute Of Education (IOE) Confucius Institute, said:

“The findings of this survey confirm that young people achieving high levels of fluency in Chinese by participating in the Mandarin Excellence Programme will be in demand in the job market. MEP pupils and their parents should be encouraged by this and employers can feel reassured that there are young people coming through the school system who can meet business needs when it comes to communicating with one of the UK’s largest trading partners.”

Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council, said:

“Learning a country’s language connects you to its people and culture – a benefit which lasts a lifetime.  Everyone in the UK who learns some Mandarin builds another link between us and China, building greater mutual understanding and trust between our countries – the absolute bedrock of business, trade and prosperity for both nations in the future.  Learning the language is also a really rewarding experience.”

The Mandarin Excellence Programme’s aim is to have at least 5,000 young people in England on track towards Mandarin fluency in 2020. In the recent Languages for the future report conducted by the British Council, Mandarin came second in the top five languages which will be the most important to the UK post-Brexit.

If you’re keen to help your students excel in Mandarin, apply for the Department for Education’s Mandarin Excellence Programme. The programme – which launched in September last year – is an intensive language programme which will see at least 5,000 pupils on track towards fluency in Mandarin by 2020. In joining the programme, your school will be at the forefront of delivering it, with funding available for state-funded secondary schools across England and support from the UCL Institute of Education and the British Council. You’ll also get the opportunity to work with other schools, sharing both ideas and resources. Find out more and apply here.

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