Mandarin in CBSE and State Schools
Mandarin Syllabus in CBSE
India is considering introducing the teaching of Mandarin in state schools, a move that would represent a policy shift for a country that has long played down the importance of learning the Chinese language.
China is India’s largest trading partner and neighbour across the Himalayas. Yet the country’s languages are barely taught in India. According to Chinese diplomats, India responded tepidly to a proposal by Beijing to establish Confucius Institutes, which teach Chinese, in the country’s main centres of learning.
The change is being driven by Kapil Sibal, minister of human resources development, who has tried to push for widespread reform in India’s education sector since taking over the portfolio last year.
Mr Sibal has held talks with Chinese officials on the practicalities of giving Indian teachers the skills to teach Mandarin courses, the possibility of Chinese teachers coming to India and the expansion of university student exchanges. He has also consulted India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) about broadening language training within the national curriculum. Mr Sibal, who attended the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, favours Mandarin teaching in primary schools to instil an early interest in China, the world’s fastest growing large economy.
An estimated 60 per cent of India’s 1.2bn population is under the age of 25. Mr Sibal said India’s “demographic dividend” could help the country dominate the global services industry and, in the future, export talent to countries with ageing societies.
While many Indians speak English, Mandarin would give them greater international competitiveness. Should Mr Sibal’s proposal gain traction, India could at a stroke increase massively the number of the world’s Mandarin speakers.
Arun Kapur, director at Vasant Valley, a large secondary school in New Delhi, welcomed the promotion of Mandarin.
“We have other foreign languages. I’m surprised CBSE did not introduce Mandarin earlier, especially since it has so many people speaking it,” he said. “Why has it taken CBSE so long? With so many speakers [of Mandarin], it’s good for India to know what the world is saying.”