140303. Cape Town. Mrs Hu is teaching Grade 8 learners from Westerford HIgh School the Mandarin language. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus

Cape Town -

More pupils may soon have the option of learning Mandarin at school.

On Sunday, the Department of Basic Education said a curriculum for the teaching of “Chinese” would be developed with the help of the Chinese government.

This would be offered at certain schools around the country.

“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.” Troy Martens, spokeswoman for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, said the plan was still in its early stages and Mandarin would not be a compulsory subject.

Last year, a collaboration agreement between the two countries was signed when President Xi Jinping visited South Africa.

Following this, an implementation plan between the Ministry of Education in China and the Department of Basic Education was signed in Beijing last week.

The department said education “is a priority imperative for both countries” and the implementation plan “is centred around strengthening education ties at an institutional and policy level”.

It said that considering the successes of the Chinese education system, the department hoped to learn more from China in the fields of teacher training and development, maths, science and technology education, curriculum development and implementation and other areas.

“We hope to learn from the Chinese experience through the exchanges of knowledge and human capital, which we believe will be extremely beneficial,” Motshekga said.

She was speaking at the East China Normal University in Shanghai.

The minister also visited schools in Shanghai “and was extremely impressed” by the calibre of research done by Chinese pupils in maths, science and technology.

A few schools in the Western Cape, including Westerford High School, are already offering Mandarin.

The principal, Rob le Roux, said that for the past three years, Mandarin had been taught as an extra-curricular subject for pupils by UCT’s Confucius Institute.

This year the school started offering Mandarin as a second additional language in Grade 8.

He said the interest shown by pupils and the fact that the school encouraged multilingualism were the reasons the language had been introduced.

He said 18 Grade 8 pupils had decided to learn Mandarin this year.

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