More than 60 schools and 3,000 students in Britain now join a Chinese learning program sponsored by the British government, latest figures have shown.
The figures, released recently at the 15th Annual Chinese Teaching Conference held by the IOE Confucius Institute of University College London, revealed the fast steady progress of UK Department for Education's Mandarin Excellence Program (MEP).
The program, launched in 2016, is a unique yet intensive Chinese language program which will see at least 5,000 British pupils on track to achieving a high level of fluency by 2020.
Katharine Carruthers, IOE Confucius Institute Director, told Xinhua that there are currently more than 1,400 pupils from 37 schools on the program in the year 2017-2018, compared with only 14 schools in the first year.
For the academic year 2018-2019, the number of schools joining the project will rise to over 60, she said.
She recalled that at the very beginning it was not easy to talk to school headmasters about the program, but after two years' efforts and development, "more school head teachers are motivated by pupil parents' enthusiasm on learning Chinese and want to be part of it."
The reason, she believed, is that many British parents realized that Mandarin Chinese could open up a world of opportunity as the most spoken language in the world.
"Now I am very confident (about the MEP target). It will be no problem at all," she said, adding that "we clearly want the MEP to go beyond 2020."
All students on the MEP need to receive four hours of teacher-taught classroom lessons each week. This will contribute towards a program of eight hours of study per week, which could consist of a combination of the teacher taught classroom lessons, after-school teaching, self-study and intensive study courses in China and the UK.
Carruthers said in late June and July, about 300 students who had joined MEP for two years would travel to China to have a two-week intensive language learning in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu.
The one-million-pound MEP is jointly carried out by IOE Confucius Institute and British Council. According to a survey by British Council, mandarin has been identified as one of the most important languages for the UK's future prosperity.