The Gauteng Department of Education has signed an agreement to offer Mandarin in Gauteng schools. FILE PHOTO: Henk Kruger

Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Education has signed an agreement with a Chinese provincial education department to work together to offer Mandarin in Gauteng schools, among other educational goals.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two provincial agencies was signed on Friday to carry out the goals of a similar collaboration agreement reached between the national Department of Basic Education and the Chinese government last year.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga last month announced the department’s approval of Mandarin in the curriculum.

From next January, Mandarin will be among 17 other non-official languages pupils can choose to take as their second additional language, after their home language and first additional language.

“As South Africa’s biggest trading partner, it is important for our children to become proficient in the Confucius language and develop a good understanding of Chinese culture,” Motshekga’s spokeswoman Troy Martens told The Star’s sister paper, the Cape Argus, last year.

“If people can communicate much easier (in the same language), it assists in developing relationships,” said Albert Chanee, Gauteng’s deputy director-general of education policy and planning, on Friday at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Joburg after signing the MOU with representatives from China’s Jiangsu Province Department of Education.

Offering Mandarin in public schools has drawn concerns from some teachers’ unions, which worry that teaching it will undermine indigenous African languages.

Mandarin will be optional for pupils, and the teaching of a home language is compulsory.

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