Monday 04 July 2022

The British Council, UCL Institute of Education and Centre for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC) are proud to announce that more than 1,500 secondary school students from 64 schools across England will take part in a two-week Mandarin Excellence Programme virtual study trip to China between 4 to 15 July.

Building on the success of the first virtual visit to China in 2021, the interactive programme designed by the British Council and UCL Institute of Education offers students a real-life focus on learning Mandarin Chinese and aims to foster cultural understanding and mutual appreciation.

Over the two-week period, the 64 participating English secondary state schools will join the programme simultaneously each day, connecting virtually to 16 host institutions across 11 Chinese mainland cities. 

Through the programme, students will deepen their knowledge of Chinese language and culture through the learning themes of Panda Zoo, Sport and Modern Life, Chinese School, History and Cultural Heritage. 

Students will also enjoy a virtual tour of the cities of Beijing, Hangzhou, Chongqing and Xi’an; learn Chinese songs, Chinese martial arts and traditional arts; and host online music and poetry festivals with their Chinese peers. 

Funded by the Department for Education (England) and delivered by UCL Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council, the Mandarin Excellence Programme is a unique intensive language programme that started in 2016 and there are now around 8,000 pupils enrolled on the programme in 75 schools in England.  

The programme has exceeded its target of seeing at least 5,000 pupils in England on track towards fluency in the language by 2020 and has had a positive impact on the supply of Mandarin teachers by increasing the number of opportunities for teaching practice. A large majority of the participating schools across England are now committed to retaining Mandarin Chinese on the curriculum in the long term. 

Highlighting the importance of the programme to the UK, British Council Director China Matt Burney said: “I’m delighted to see that through our Mandarin Excellence Programme, we are connecting the young generation of people in the UK and China through language learning. Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken first language in the world. I look forward to seeing more UK pupils acquire the skill of Mandarin language and work together with their Chinese peers to deepen the trust and understanding of our two countries.”

Katharine Carruthers, Mandarin Excellence Programme Strategic Director at UCL Institute of Education, said: “MEP students in England are making substantial progress in their Chinese language learning. This virtual language learning trip to China for Year 9 is a highlight in their progression. We are delighted to be able to offer the students a unique digital environment so they can develop new skills while immersing themselves in Chinese language and culture. It also gives them an excellent opportunity to interact with Chinese peers and to perfect what they have learnt so far in their classrooms in England. It is an important step on their journey to fluency in Mandarin.”

Jianfei Ma, Director General of the Centre for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC) also comments: “Learning Chinese has become the choice of many young people internationally. This is the fourth year we have worked with the British Council on the Mandarin Excellence Programme. We hope that through the in-depth virtual study experience, participating UK students will enhance their ability to use Chinese in real-life situations, and will better prepare them for a more complex and competitive international job market.

Notes to Editor

Please download an independent evaluation of the Mandarin Excellence Programme here:

Find out more about the Mandarin Excellence Programme: 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2020–21 we connected with 67 million people directly and with 745 million people overall.  

Centre for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC)  

The Center for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC) is a non-profit professional educational institution for international Chinese language education, affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE). CLEC is committed to providing quality services for people from all over the world to learn Chinese and understand China. It also intends to build a platform for friendly collaboration on language education and cross-cultural learning. 

About UCL – London’s Global University 

UCL is a diverse community with the freedom to challenge and think differently.

Our community of more than 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems.

We are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world and are one of only a handful of institutions rated as having the strongest academic reputation and the broadest research impact.

We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research – championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors.  

For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge.

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