“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere,” goes an old Chinese proverb.
Dedicated to empowering India’s youth and using education as a tool to bridge the chasm in understanding between India and China, Indian Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal has proposed teaching Mandarin in all Central Board of Secondary Education Institutes in India. Mandarin is the worlds most spoken language by population and is China’s national language, spoken uniformly across Mainland China. The change comes at a time when Sibal is making sweeping changes across India’s education sector. In relation to China, Sibal recently announced plans to accept Chinese University degrees in India.
While discussions are currently only at an exploratory stage, no formal deal has yet been signed between the Chinese and Indians. Yet Sibal has told the Chinese that this programme would not be successful without their assistance. “I told the Chinese that I cannot do this unless I have standards and there is a test,” he said. “And that cannot happen unless I collaborate with you.”
Sibal believes that in educating India’s youth in globally inclusive projects such as teaching them international languages and global best practices, Indian can increase its future international competitiveness. China is afterall India’s largest trading partner and understanding the language is key to doing business and knowing the culture of the country. Mandarin is now the fourth most studied A-level language in the UK after French, Spanish and German.
Nonetheless critics exclaim about India overzealousness to impress the Chinese. Will the Chinese ever learn Mandarin? they claim – the answer is obvious, While Delhi University does teach Hindi to foreigners, a handful of mandarins have learnt Hindi. Further, Indians diversity means that each student is already taught two-three languages in school which is higher than what most western students learn, then why the need to learn a third foreign language?