Uganda’s education ministry is planning to add Mandarin language lessons to its secondary school curriculum at 35 schools
with future plans to roll it out to more educational institutions as resources become available.
The ministry has selected 35 teachers, who were trained over the last nine months, to lead the classes which will be compulsory for two years of senior secondary school but optional thereafter, according to local reports.
The program is getting support from the Chinese government which has supplied materials including textbooks as well as some tutors, Uganda’s Daily Monitor reports. Schools in Uganda already teach other international languages including English, the language of its former colonial rulers Britain, French, Arabic, Latin and German.
Uganda follows South Africa, which introduced Mandarin lessons at some schools starting in 2014. Lessons were available in 44 South African public schools around the country as of September.
I wonder how this all plays out.
1. Why compulsory? Optional would be good; required strikes me as bad. But that’s the instinct of Ugandan policy-makers, as I know first-hand: limit choices, mandate various things, without grasping how mandates often erode quality. Oh well.
15-year-olds suddenly told that in addition to their mother tongue, English, and KiSwahili, they will now study Mandarin? Ole Wangu (Oy vey). The Chinese teachers will likely be frustrated by their Ugandan pupils.
2. In the USA, French has historically been the most studied foreign language in high schools. I was one of them. But very few Americans become fluent in French; even fewer remain fluent. Studying abroad is often needed to make the language “click.”
An increasing number of Africans are doing precisely that. They receive scholarships to go to China for university (particularly engineering classes taught in English). Results are mixed.
If more African high school students learn at least conversational Mandarin, I’d guess if they choose to get a Chinese college education, they’ll get more out of it, and satisfaction will rise.