Mandarin Chinese PGCE at UCL Institute of Education

The UCL Institute of Education (IOE) PGCE course offers dedicated Mandarin-specific subject tuition for trainee teachers of languages.  The tuition on the course draws on the best current Mandarin teaching practice in UK schools through an established national network, coordinated by the UCL IOE Confucius Institute for Schools. For more information about the course and how to apply, please click here.

In today’s blog post, we catch up with two of this year’s Mandarin specific PGCE students to ask them questions about the course and find out a little bit more about what it has to offer.

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UCL IOE Mandarin PGCE student, Jun Cai

1. As a native Chinese speaker, why did you choose the Mandarin PGCE at UCL IOE?

Mainly it is because IOE enjoys a distinguished reputation in education worldwide. It is the number one institute for studying education. I am ensured to have highly experienced lecturers and excellent fellow students. Another reason is that PGCE at UCL IOE offers Mandarin and EAL, which is different from some other universities that only offer Mandarin and a European language. This suits me as like most Chinese PGCE students, I only have English as a second language.

2. What do you think the benefits of a Mandarin specific PGCE are?

Some PGCE MFLs are designed for teaching European languages. Most of the theories and lecture input are based on European Languages. The IOE Mandarin specific PGCE provides theories based on Mandarin language learning. Take vocabulary teaching and learning for example. New vocabulary drilling activities will take Chinese characters into account as there is no link between the characters and pronunciation. In theoretical writing, Mandarin specific lecture input allows discussion on character writing and memorization. The IOE has a very strong MFL PGCE teaching team and its Mandarin teaching team also has a close relationship with the IOE Confucius Institute. The student teachers like me especially benefit from first-hand information of Mandarin teaching practice in the South East and throughout the U.K.

3. As a native Chinese speaker, what elements of the PGCE have you found most challenging, and why?

Well, personally, I find that writing an assignment is the most challenging. Writing essays to the MA standard requires a good knowledge of theories and practices. Most importantly, student teachers are required to provide analysis and critiques of the various theories and practice. As a native Chinese speaker, I received most of my education in China. The Chinese culture doesn’t encourage different opinions… I found it quite difficult to question and challenge the theories that I read. I understand that I need to be critical where necessary but somehow I do not know how. Now with the help of the IOE lecturers and experience that I have gathered in teaching before, I think I am developing in that area.

4. What elements of the PGCE are you enjoying the most and why?

I am in the middle of my first placement and I’m enjoying the experience at the placement school. However, the elements I find most enjoyable are the lectures in IOE. All the lecturers are so brilliant and experienced. I love their lecturing as they can make the “abstract” theories easy to understand. They also provide us with first hand practical teaching and learning activities. Moreover, they guide us to think, to reflect and to evaluate theories and teaching practices. Apart from the lecturers, I also find enjoyment in discussions with fellow student teachers. As the MFL PGCE has students speaking and teaching different languages, it’s been great fun to join in class discussions, sharing different experiences and thoughts and using the diversity of cultural experiences to enhance our understanding of teaching in the UK.

5. What in particular are you looking forward next year on the PGCE?

Well, next year, I will be going into my second PGCE placement after a month’s study in IOE. I am really looking forward to it as it is a chance for me to explore further teaching Mandarin. In my first placement, I have been guided through lots of teaching practices. However, I am looking forward to some experimental methods of teaching Mandarin in my second placement, if possible. I remember at the beginning of the course, we were told that a teacher always finds him or herself in between idealism and frustration. As I used to be a teacher in China, I can therefore identify myself as having been in this situation and I understand this point of view from first-hand experience. I feel this is a time when a teacher has to choose to either survive or strive; I will definitely choose the latter one. I am looking forward to next year’s PGCE and also to my future teaching career, which I now feel I will be well equipped for in the UK, in large part to my time spent at the IOE.

Jamie Teaching

UCL IOE Mandarin PGCE student, Jamie Bilbow

1. Why did you choose the Mandarin PGCE at UCL IOE?

I decided to train to be a Chinese teacher last year whilst I was based in Hong Kong. I had two choices: take a place on a PGCE course in Hong Kong or return to the UK to study at UCL IOE. I chose the IOE based on several factors. I had heard from several colleagues about the high standard of teaching at the IOE. The global reputation of the IOE is unrivalled. I also felt that, instead of doing a PGCE taught in Chinese, I wanted to learn how to become a teacher in a Western system to ensure my teaching practice would be in line with expectations of schools in the West. As far as I’m aware the IOE is the only UK based PGCE course to offer Mandarin as an option. I felt the course offered a unique combination of being able to learn how to become a teacher through an English language medium whilst specialising as a Chinese teacher. I wanted the opportunity to learn from expert Chinese teachers and to be able to teach Chinese during school placements. Also, being a SOAS alumnus, returning to Russell Square to continue my education felt right! Studying at the IOE provides a nice continuation in my academic lifeline.

2. What do you think the benefits of a Mandarin specific PGCE are?

Leaning how to specifically teach Mandarin is very beneficial. A lot of time is spent debating the unique complexities of teaching Mandarin, including the role of Pinyin and character stroke order as well as unique grammar structures. Whilst Mandarin is placed alongside French and Spanish in the school curriculum there are important differences in the teaching pedagogy that require consideration, by studying a Mandarin specific PGCE this course helps to address these differences and train teachers to become highly qualified to teach Mandarin.

3. As a non-native speaker of Chinese, what elements of the PGCE have you found most challenging and why?

I feel the elements of the PGCE I find most tough are quite unrelated to being a non-native speaker. The elements that test me the most are concerning behaviour management, lesson planning and general teaching practice.

4. What elements of the PGCE are you enjoying the most and why?

I enjoy the learning environment of the Mandarin tutor groups, the dynamic of having both Western and Chinese views on teaching leads to some very interesting debates. I also enjoy the fast pace of the course. I am always very impressed with how rich in content each lecture and tutorial is, within 1 year we are covering an awful lot of course content whilst at the same time juggling the demands of two different teaching placements. I feel that without this pace I would find the course a lot harder.

5. What in particular are you looking forward next year on the PGCE?

I am looking forward to more of the same. More thought provoking debates and more valuable insight from the IOE tutors and my fellow classmates.