The Department has not made any assessment of the difficulty of Mandarin in comparison with other modern language GCSEs. However, the Key Stage 3 programme of study for languages sets out statutory modifications to the level descriptors for listening, responding and reading for pupils studying Mandarin and Cantonese. These modifications assume that Mandarin may be spoken at a slower speed, the range of topics may be more limited and pupils may work with a limited number of characters. There are no similar modifications for other languages.
We do not promote the teaching of one language over another, and have not provided any specific funding for the teaching of Mandarin in schools. It is for individual schools to decide which languages they offer. However, the Department signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hanban (Office of the Chinese Language Council International) in July 2006 designed to promote Chinese learning and teaching in English schools and to increase cooperation between the two countries.
The Secretary of State has not had any discussions with education providers on the teaching of Mandarin in schools. The Languages Review, published in March 2007, proposed widening the range of languages taught in schools. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has recently finished consulting on the revised Key Stage 3 languages curriculum. The consultation proposed removing the requirement that schools must first teach a European language to allow them to teach any major spoken world language, including Mandarin, depending on local need and circumstances. We are considering the potential implications of these changes for the school workforce.