Views: 9237|Replies: 63

Why is English compulsory in China's public schools? [Copy link] 中文

Rank: 2

Post time 2015-5-25 06:51:08 |Display all floors
I'm curious to know why English is compulsory in China's public schools? In Hungary, public schools can choose between over 20 languages to teach and students in which to be tested to fulfil graduation requirements, with English, German, and Esperanto being the most popular options followed by French. Polish public schools can choose between at least four including Esperanto. The Italian government, acknowledging the dismally poor success rate in English language learning, added Esperanto to the list of language choices in 1993 due to its being 5 to 10 times easier to learn than English.British public schools offer a wide range of choices too, and French public schools over one hundred options and the French government has expressed concern in the past about too many students choosing English resulting in French businesses being unable to fill positions in languages other than English while English students are left competing for the same English jobs. France (where Esperanto is not an option) has also expressed concern over the dismally low rate of success in English language learning too with not only too many choosing English, but then failing to learn it well. The Quebec government (where English is compulsory as is the case in China, but where the rate of success is also much higher than in China), has also expressed concern over its rate of success. US schools even allow a sign language to fulfil graduation requirements.

Given that China is a far more populous country than Hungary and so should be even more concerned about expanding its markets beyond the English-speaking world, why does China not give more language choices in school, including easier languages (especially considering China's equally dismal rate of success as elsewhere) and a sign language?

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 8Rank: 8

Post time 2015-5-25 07:59:28 |Display all floors
If you want to be anything in life you must learn English. I'm always amazed how many Chinese people can graduate from universities with such low level English skills. How can they do their thesis, reports or study their subject if they cannot read and understand English?

English is the world's common language and everyone should learn it. It doesn't matter if you can only speak broken English, what matters is that people understand you and you can express yourself to others. That's the minimum.

To study other languages is also a good idea. Study Chinese especially.

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 8Rank: 8

Post time 2015-5-25 08:07:07 |Display all floors
pimpernel2 Post time: 2015-5-25 01:46
Caged. This is a good topic. Maybe Europe learns English because the UK, USA, Canada, NZ, Australia  ...

Newsflash: Most goods sold in UK are not made in China. That would suggest more than 50 % of all the goods sold are made in China.  

Newsflash: 1,3 billion people in China do not speak Putonghua. Hundreds of millions of Chinese speak their own dialect or own language. Many of them cannot even understand putonghua as a second language.

If you would have studied in a university you would know that most academic research is done in English, not Spanish, Portuguese, German, French or sign language. That alone plus the fact that global business is done in English are the real reason why English is taught in European schools.

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 2

Post time 2015-5-25 08:33:30 |Display all floors
Hi Mixamixa.

Though I agree English is useful, I would say that it is so only to the 4% to 7% of the world's population that has access to the necessary resources or aptitude to learn it well. I don't know how well traveled you are, but even in Quebec City I was surprised to find how utterly useless English was outside the Old City, and that many university graduates just knew French and though I'd never asked, can logically conclude that they probably wrote their thesis in French. I'll take a wild guess to conclude that Chinese itself is probably developed enough to write a thesis in it. In China likewise I've found that unless you know Chinese, you're pretty well limited to expensive tourist traps.

Statistics indicate that only about 6% of Europeans learn English to a sufficient level of competence for it to be of any use to them beyond passing a high school test, and I'd say it's probably around 4% in China. If no other language is useful to learn, then why not require only top students to learn English and let the others learn other subjects rather than waste their time with a language in which they have about 4 chances in 100 to successfully learn? It's less of a gamble than buying a lottery ticket I suppose, but not much less so.

We should also consider circular reasoning. For example, if English is made compulsory in China, then that alone raises its status, which we then use as an argument for making it compulsory.

I guess the question becomes, what do we do about the high failure rates? I can see a few possible solutions:

1. Increase government funding for second language learning. That has been the strategy in Quebec, with poor results. Sure the success rate is slightly higher there than in Europe, but Quebec also invests far more in it.

2. No longer make second language learning compulsory. The UK tried that for some time, but found students just all opted out of language learning. I suppose it could have made it compulsory for those with a proven aptitude at least, and optional for the rest? I don't know. All I know is that the UK decided to drop that experiment and go back to compulsory second language learning and testing for sll.

3. Allow easier language options, such as Esperanto or a sign language. Esperanto is popular in Hungary as a result of such a policy, but of course Esperanto is not English.

Given "English Fever" in China, the first option might be the solution for China, but given that increased spending improved success rates ever so slightly in Quebec, the Chinese government would likely need to consider major increases in funding (maybe even a quadrupling of funding) for English language learning in public schools, otherwise for most students it will be a complete waste of their time

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 2

Post time 2015-5-25 08:47:36 |Display all floors
Hi Pimpernel2.

The way I see it, the Hungarian model is one worthy of emulation. I don't know if Chinese is song its over 20 options, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't, given that English, German, Esperanto, French, and Latin are.

I'd say that as a minimum, a public school ought to be free to teach and students to be tested in the following second languages:

1. English. Yes, English is difficult to learn, but those who possess the necessary aptitude ought to have the chance to learn it.

2. A sign language. This could be useful in education, public services, and other fields of work with the deaf as well as underwater and other such jobs where a sign language may be more useful than an oral one.

3. Esperanto. This is particularly useful for deaf students who would like to learn to pronounce a second language, dyslexics who would like to learn to read a second language,  and any student lacking the necessary aptitude to learn a difficult second language but who could benefit from a second language nonetheless. After all, not everyone can become the CEO of a multinational company, so education should not be founded on that asdunption.

Second-language education policy needs to be more welcoming of the deaf, dyslexics, and others who may lack the necessary aptitude to learn a difficult second language well and not cater so exclusively to the elites of society.

That said, I think the above ought to be a minimum given that other languages may be of benefit too, such as neighbouring languages (not all Japanese and Russians speak English for instance: in fact, the vast majority don't). Other languages might be of use too.

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 8Rank: 8

Post time 2015-5-25 08:52:18 |Display all floors
Caged Post time: 2015-5-25 02:33
Hi Mixamixa.

Though I agree English is useful, I would say that it is so only to the 4% to 7% of th ...

I have never been to Quebec but I find it hard to believe that university graduates there can't speak English. And even if it was true, who cares about Quebec City?

Esperanto? Really? Only 1,6 million people can say more than hello. How is that useful language to learn?

You cannot do credible thesis without international material and that is usually in English.

We are having this conversation in English too

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 2

Post time 2015-5-25 08:52:55 |Display all floors
mixamixa Post time: 2015-5-25 08:07
Newsflash: Most goods sold in UK are not made in China. That would suggest more than 50 % of all t ...

Are you saying that no jobs exist outside of scientific research and business? What about the teacher, the police officer, the social worker, the physician with deaf patients, or the manual worker who just wants a second language to make friends abroad? Like I said, compulsory English is too elitist by ignoring the needs of the deaf, dyslexics and others.

Use magic tools Report

You can't reply post until you log in Log in | register

Contact us:Tel: (86)010-84883548, Email:
Blog announcement:| We reserve the right, and you authorize us, to use content, including words, photos and videos, which you provide to our blog
platform, for non-profit purposes on China Daily media, comprising newspaper, website, iPad and other social media accounts.