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British Primary Children to Be Taught Chinese
Primary school children in Britain are to be taught Chinese as part of government plans to increase the number of pupils who are fluent in the language, The Times newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The government plans to increase the number of secondary schools offering examinations in Chinese from 40 to more than 200 within five years.

It is hoped that the move will place future workers in a better position to exploit China's accelerating economy, the report said.

Last year, more than 5,630 pupils studied Chinese mandarin, almost all of whom are from ethnic Chinese background. The British government hopes to triple the figure within three years by persuading more native English speakers that Chinese, which is spoken by more people than any other language, does not deserve its reputation for complexity.

British diplomats in Beijing are recruiting teachers throughout China for English schools, and examination boards are devising ways to make the subject more accessible to pupils, said the report from a correspondent in Beijing.

The moves are being driven by the assumption that China's present world-beating growth rate of 7 percent a year will lead to its displacing Japan as the world's second largest economy within 30 years.

Planned reforms to the school system, published after this month's Comprehensive Spending Review, will assist the strategy.

Within five years there will be nearly 2,000 specialist secondary schools receiving extra funding, with more than 250 concentrating on languages, said The Times.

Most of those will offer Mandarin.

Primary schools are being asked to prepare younger children for the new strategy. More than 100 primary schools have so far received government grants, out of an annual budget of 420,000 (about US$650,000) to help to fund Chinese lessons, the report said.

(People's Daily August 1, 2002)

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