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Students set to learn Mandarin in Labour language skills pledge


Secondary school pupils should be able to learn Mandarin, Arabic, Russian and Japanese the government announced yesterday.

Schools can choose which languages to teach, but the government want the options to reflect the changing face of business. Last year a survey found 38% of firms wanted recruits who could speak Mandarin or Cantonese. One in five wanted Russian speakers and 15% Arabic.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls also called for all primary schools to provide a foreign language option from this year. It comes a year ahead of foreign languages becoming compulsory for over-sevens.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Balls commented: "In this new decade our ties with emerging economies like China will become even more important. We need the skills."

From this year, a GCSE in Mandarin will be available to secondary school students - a language which came third in a poll by the CBI to find the languages employers were most looking for.

The move comes following a sharp drop in the number of pupils opting to study modern foreign languages after ministers made the subject optional at GCSE level in 2002.

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