Li’l Dragon Slayers
The country’s youngest minds will now do battle with the Dragon. And if the CBSE, the Central Board of Secondary Education, has its way, we’ll be taking Mandarin to the Chinese in a couple of generations. The board’s new decision is to introduce ‘Chinese’ as an optional language in schools keeping in mind the growing globalised environment. Currently, most public schools offer Sanskrit and French as options (and in some places even German). Mandarin is the latest inductee but with the lack of teaching staff, for now it’s a pilot project. A proposed training programme for teachers is under way but will take some time.
Secondary and senior secondary level CBSE now officially offers 32 languages, out of which 12 are foreign ones. Seeking greater people-to-people understanding, India and China signed an MoU on August 24, 2012, to introduce Mandarin as an optional foreign language course in CBSE schools.
Under the MoU signed by Indian ambassador S. Jaishankar and Xu Lin, director-general of Hanban, the official Chinese organisation that oversees teaching of Mandarin abroad, China will train 300 Indian teachers at its language universities to make a beginning.
“CBSE wants to cater to the diverse needs of students in a globalised world. In view of China emerging as one of the major global economies and Mandarin being one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, the board has decided to launch it in Class VI. The CBSE has sent a proposal to the Chinese government for official clearances,” says board spokesperson Rama Sharma.
The idea of introducing Mandarin in CBSE schools was mooted way back in 2010 by Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal during a visit to China. It’s taken two years to get the script unravelled.
The CBSE has sent a proposal to the partner Chinese organisation seeking assistance to develop courses and prepare the syllabus and text material. The training programme will have master trainers at a later date to make the project self-sustainable.
The board has also planned an alternative pilot project. “In this approach, the Chinese language with tutor services will be offered online to students (initially only in Class VI). This proposal has been discussed with the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan and five Kendriya Vidyalayas in the national capital region have been selected,” adds Sharma.
“Foreign languages will always be an added advantage in the long run. The Chinese influence in our society is already very visible. So I am glad the board has worked towards introducing Mandarin in schools,” says parent and enthusiast Vaijayanti Balakrishnan.
There still remains the problem of a lack of trained Mandarin tutors. According to Dr Sreemati Chakrabarty, professor of Chinese at Delhi University and a member of the Indian Institute of Chinese studies, “It will take at least two years to train teachers as Mandarin is a language of tones and strokes. There are many students in the Chinese language courses, but they learn it for shorter periods to get jobs in travel agencies as interpreters. (In the Buddhist tourist circuit, there is a great demand for them). This is one reason for the shortage. Also, only a very small number pursue the language for a possible bachelors or masters degree. So the CBSE’s move to start a Mandarin course for school students should go a long way in creating good teachers of the Chinese language.”
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