The aim of our Mandarin Excellence programme, which was established in 2014, was to have 5,000 pupils fluent in Mandarin by 2020, and it is on track to achieve that. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), who originally proposed this idea to me. The programme is now in 37 schools, with more than 1,400 pupils participating, all of whom are committed to eight hours of study—four hours in class and four hours of homework—each week. The intention is that by the time these pupils are in year 13, they will be fluent in Mandarin, reaching the international standard HSK (Level V).
The answers that are scribbled by those who serve Ministers are very informative, but the trouble is they are too long. It is the responsibility of Ministers to reduce their size. We are all very entertained by the Minister of State, but it would be good if he could do so more briefly.
Last week, the British Government hosted the UK young leaders’ roundtable and the people-to-people dialogue between the UK and China. Having recently visited China myself and seen the great opportunity that exists, does the Minister agree that having more schools offering Chinese or Mandarin as an option would help to strengthen the global strategic partnership between our two countries?
Yes, my hon. Friend is right. Last week we invited Minister Chen from China and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to meet 140 pupils who were participating in the Mandarin Excellence project. Minister Chen was impressed, as we all were, by the standard of the Mandarin being spoken by year 8 pupils who had been studying on the programme for just one year.