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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