UCL IOE Mandarin PGCE experience

The UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Mandarin Chinese PGCE course offers dedicated Mandarin-specific subject tuition for trainee teachers of languages.  Tuition draws on the best current Mandarin teaching practice in UK schools through an established national network, coordinated by UCL IOE Confucius Institute.

Former student Yingying Zhang, who completed her Mandarin Chinese PGCE at UCL IOE in 2018, tells us about her own experiences of studying on the course. For more information about the Mandarin Chinese PGCE, please click here.

Hello Yingying. Why did you choose to do a PGCE at UCL IOE? 

Yinying IoE2Before I started looking at being a qualified teacher in the UK and getting on a PGCE course, I asked myself which route into teaching would suit me best. I used to work in China as an English teacher, but people told me that working in UK schools was entirely different. Unlike Schools Direct, which immediately immerses you in school life, a PGCE is university-led. I was fortunate as the UCL IOE PGCE is taught by renowned Mandarin teaching experts Katharine Carruthers and Xiaoming Zhu, who provide critical feedback and helped me improve in a structured manner. UCL IOE is number one in the world for Education, and is undoubtedly the dream institute to many. I felt very lucky to become one of its students.

How would you describe your experiences of applying and getting onto the PGCE course?

Preparing and applying for a PGCE takes both time and energy; there may also be financial costs involved, as you might need to pass certain tests to meet the entry requirements, such as GCSE English, IELTS, or a professional skills test. Make sure you think about why you want to do this course in the first place. My determination and passion actually served as the engine which drove me forward throughout the whole PGCE. Meeting the staff and peers also helped ease the pressure. I still remember how helpful the teachers were at the open evening and what a fun get-together the supposedly nerve-racking interview day actually was – the vibe was open, relaxing and motivating. It was amazing from the off!

Are there any thoughts you would like to share now you have completed your PGCE? 

Different people might have different feelings to share; here I would like to highlight mine which I think might be of some help to those who are thinking of embarking on the course.

  • Pro-activity matters. As soon as you begin studying, you are trusted with the capacity to do anything up to and beyond the expected standard. I originally chose ‘Mandarin with EAL’ but I completed an SKE (Subject Knowledge Enhancement) due to French being my second foreign language. Although I was not confident in delivering French lessons, I still managed to cover Mandarin and French in my placement with my tutors’ encouragement. In the meantime, I continued with my EAL. Thanks to Katharine and Xiaoming and our programme leader Colin Christie, I was able to stretch my potential to the fullest.
  • Yingying IoE1Opportunities to progress through two school placements lasting up to two thirds of the one-year long course are brilliant. The first placement was slightly intimidating at times but it prepared me well to be a teacher by giving me a genuine flavour of teaching in a UK secondary school. The placement also gave the opportunity to reflect upon and experiment with the theories discussed at tutor groups. All trainee teachers are assigned a Subject Mentor to guide them through their planning and teaching. In the second placement, I was much more involved in the wider school life including creating assessment materials, marking, attending parents’ evenings and even the staff talent show! These placements not only contribute to your portfolio of evidence, but also ensure progression in all aspects.
  • Different schools have different ‘personalities’ just like people. At times it could be frustrating but then again power and determination will come as your best friend.  Consistency eventually reaped me two ‘outstanding’s on two school reports which I am quite proud of. There may even be the possibility of securing a job in one of your placements, so professionalism is also key. Just ‘Keep calm and keep teaching Mandarin’!
  • Friendships formed during the PGCE are much valued. Studying at the IOE supplied me with a direct flavour of multiculturalism and diversity in teaching and learning approaches. Working with people from different cultural backgrounds helped me to grow into a better teacher. There were 15 of us in the Mandarin tutor group, and every moment of sharing with peers, whether pedagogically or emotionally, was an opportunity to learn and the mutual support made a lot of warmth out of the longish winter. Behind us, we always had our tutors’ heart-warming support, for which I was really grateful.
  • Last but not least, critical thinking, critical thinking, critical thinking! Critical thinking broadened my vision for pedagogy and helped to produce more reflective pieces of work for all the assignments. Following this mind-set helped me to achieve an ‘A’ in my final small-scaled research assignment. Constant reflection and criticality are the key to the PGCE course.

All in all, I highly recommend this course to those who wish to be a Mandarin teacher in the UK. You will find it challenging, but satisfying and fulfilling as you will make a difference not only to yourself but also to the current and prospective Mandarin learners in the UK.

Thank-you Yingying!

For further information about the Mandarin Chinese PGCE at UCL IOE, please go to the following webpage: https://ci.ioe.ac.uk/teacher-training/mandarin-chinese-pgce/