Judith's Report on the Mapping of the Learning of Chinese and about China in Scotland's Schools

20 November 2017

It is just over a decade since we began a collaborative effort in Scotland to introduce the learning of Mandarin and about China in our schools. We started with groups of enthusiastic teachers and officials in national and local government; the first Confucius Institute and the first Confucius Classroom were opened. Soon we had a PGDE course at Moray House School of Education, the possibility of registration for Teachers of Mandarin with the GTCS, and a full range of SQA courses. Now we have five Confucius Institutes, a large network of Confucius Classroom Hubs, some keen schools collaborating in a number of authorities, school partnerships and exchanges with China, some business connections, and pupils who have progressed from learning Mandarin in school to degree courses in Chinese language and studies and to working in China.

But when we evaluate our progress we want much more: Dr Jim Scott's annual analysis of SQA qualifications and the small number of qualified Teacher of Mandarin in our schools remind us that we are just beginning. So, stimulated by debate in a meeting of Directors of Confucius Institutes, SCEN has joined with the Confucius Institute for Scotland in the University of Edinburgh to map learning Chinese and about China in all our schools, local authority, independent, and Chinese community. Earlier this year questionnaires were sent out and 198 responses were received from primary schools, 135 from secondary; much less than we would have liked, but probably the usual rate. We have learned a great deal about the nature of learning opportunities available.

In terms of qualifications, the full range offered by the SQA provide the underpinning for many schools involved, up to Advanced Higher in 7.5%, and including Languages for Skills and Work. It is clear that other qualifications are offered too: the Chinese Proficiency Test HSK, in 5.8% of those who responded, Open University Young Applicants in Schools, the Hanban Youth Chinese Test (YCT), and in some independent schools, GCSE, Advanced Level or the International Baccalaureate. In the future it would be good to find an inclusive approach in our analyses, including differentiating between native and non-native speakers. Other learning opportunities quite properly have an inter-disciplinary approach, involving Art, Drama, Dance and PE, Geography, History and Modern Studies, projects relating to China, Chinese Festival celebrations, after school clubs, and the Beyond the Panda Programme so energetically led by Sandie Robb of the Royal Zoological Society for Scotland.

Primary Schools enjoyed Beyond the Panda too, as well as China Projects and Festival Activities. What was particularly encouraging here was the approach to the learning of Mandarin: 17.6% offered an introduction to the language. Nearly 22% of those responding saw Mandarin as a part of their 1+2 Language Plan: some as a second language and more as the third. It is very good to see the collaborative work among Primary Schools in Aberdeen, led by George Roberts, Head Teacher of Danestone Primary School, and Lynnette Martin, Teacher of Mandarin at the Aberdeen Confucius Hub, Old Machar Academy. In East Lothian, the SCEN Learning of Chinese programme, splendidly backed by the local authority and by the Edinburgh University Students' Association, has led to 1+2 Mandarin learning progressing now to North Berwick High School and Musselburgh Grammar School.

China trips and exchange visits, and the immersion courses organised by the Confucius Institute for Scotland's Schools at the University of Strathclyde, have proved inspiring and primary teachers have been amazed by the enthusiasm of their pupils for learning Mandarin. Schools recognise the lack of qualified and registered Teachers of Mandarin but are quick to seize opportunities, relishing the support of Hanban teachers and British Council Chinese Language Assistants, and by encouraging their own teachers to become Mandarin learners. Schools which so far have not been able to offer Chinese and China learning were often keen to do so; schools in rural areas, and in the Highlands and Islands, would be glad to find Chinese partner schools and other opportunities.

Clearly, after only eleven years, we must not be dejected by the limited uptake of qualifications and registered teachers. We need to keep up our enthusiasm for the development of a language and a cultural understanding of vital importance to the future of the world and the careers of our young people. To progress, we should have clear information about what is happening and what works. The SCEN China Youth Summit, held at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Friday 3 November, welcomed almost 500 delegates of all ages, from forty five schools, including eleven from Hong Kong as part of the Hong Kong Scotland Education Connection led by Nigel Fong and the Hong Kong Scotland School Improvement Partnership led by Archie McGlynn, former Chief Inspector of Schools in Scotland. We were encouraged by the President of SCEN, Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, the Principal of Glasgow University, Sir Anton Muscatelli, and the Director of Education in Glasgow, Maureen McKenna. SCEN launched a digital map, the first step in identifying all schools, colleges and universities in Scotland that offer Mandarin courses and learning about China, and with the aim of encouraging more educational and business links:


We need more Head Teacher leadership and parental involvement, and more initiatives like the Swire Chinese Centres of Excellence in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Above all, we must continue with our enthusiasm and collaborate even more.

Dr Judith McClure
Chair of the Scotland China Education Network (SCEN)