Reflections on teaching the Mandarin Excellence Programme


The Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) is moving into its second year with the new schools joining the programme being announced next month. Miriam Williams, formerly of Essex-Anglo European School, has been teaching the MEP for the past year and has shared with us some very interesting reflections on teaching the programme.

Miriam Williams: ‘Like many others, I became a teacher because I love learning languages myself and wanted to inspire other young people in the same way. As China’s role on the world stage develops, it is vital that our young people are able to understand the culture and speak the language. Learning Chinese also broadens students’ horizons and helps them to problem-solve and think in a different way. I have found that students tend to be interested in the Chinese language and culture and are excited to have the opportunity to learn the language, but teaching Mandarin as part of the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) has, without a doubt, been the highlight of my teaching career so far.

I have been amazed by the progress students have made and by their enthusiasm and appetite for the language. The intensive style of learning gives them plenty of opportunities to review language and experiment with new vocabulary and structures. Having lessons most days means they can really remember what they have learnt and have the confidence to use the language. The students are really proud of the progress they have made and lots of them are now teaching their family members too. It has been great hearing parents introduce themselves in Mandarin at Parents’ Evenings, or tell me that their 4 year old can now count to 10 in Mandarin! Our Year 7 students often say that the MEP is “challenging,” “enjoyable” and “interesting.” They aspire to being fluent one day and look forward to doing business in China and making lots of money!

As a teacher, teaching students as part of the MEP has been hugely rewarding; not only have I had the flexibility to tailor lessons to suit students interest and see them use and adapt language for their own purposes, but I have also had the time to develop my own teaching. Experimenting with different activities has allowed greater learner autonomy, and given the freedom to incorporate more Chinese culture. The regular lessons have enabled me to better cater for the different learning styles and needs in the class and I have been pleased to see the most able students thrive and make outstanding progress, whilst also noticing that the weaker students make much better progress because they can benefit from the extra support and being able to focus on just one language.

I would strongly recommend the MEP, but don’t just take my word for it; our Year 7 students say “go for it,” “definitely give it a go” and “always be positive about learning it!”’

Thank-you Miriam

To read more about the Mandarin Excellence Programme, please click here.