Mandarin Chinese ‘most beneficial’ language for children’s future, say UK parents

UK parents see Mandarin Chinese as the ‘most beneficial’ non-European language for their children to learn, according to new research released today as part of the Mandarin Excellence Programme which launched in September 2016.

More than 1000 parents with children under 18 were polled on what languages they thought wou

ld be most valuable for their children’s futures. Mandarin Chinese was viewed by parents as one of the most important languages for young Britons to learn with 35 per cent of those surveyed picking it in their top three when asked which languages they thought would be most beneficial for their children’s futures.

Whilst the more traditional languages French, Spanish and German were favourites overall (picked in the top three by 57 per cent, 54 per cent and 40 per cent of parents respectively), Mandarin Chinese was considered the most vital non-European language for young people in the UK to speak – well-ahead of Arabic and Japanese (both 14 per cent).

When questioned specifically about Mandarin Chinese, more than half (51 per cent) of parents said they thought that learning the language would boost their children’s career prospects while 56 per cent saw it as a skill that would open their children’s minds to an ‘exciting and dynamic’ culture. A similar number (51 per cent) stated that they would like their children to have the opportunity to study Mandarin with more than a quarter (27 per cent) saying that they would actively be encouraging their children to learn the language.


Carried out by Populus, the new survey has been commissioned as part of the Mandarin Excellence Programme – which aims to see at least 5,000 young people in England on track to a high level of fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020. The new Department for Education programme, which is the first language learning initiative of its kind in the UK, has seen hundreds of secondary school pupils in England start intensive Mandarin lessons since September 2016. The programme is being led by participating schools, supported by the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) in partnership with the British Council.

Speaking on the significance of learning Chinese, Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council, said:

“Mandarin Chinese is one of the languages that matters most to the UK’s future prosperity. If the UK is to remain competitive on the world stage, we need far more of our young people leaving school with a good grasp of Mandarin in order to successfully work abroad or for businesses here in the UK.  Learning Mandarin is also a fascinating process that brings a valuable understanding of Chinese culture. ”

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, and is seen as important for young people in the UK to master in order for the country to remain globally competitive in the future. Secondary school pupils on the Mandarin Excellence Programme are studying the language for an average of eight hours a week over the course of the next four years – a significant increase on the one to two hours per week that most Year 7 secondary pupils currently spend studying a language. 

To find out more about the Mandarin Excellence Programme and participating schools please visit our MEP pages.