Noting that the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has been experiencing an influx of visitors and expats who speak Mandarin and French, Minister of Education Myron Walwyn said, come September, six schools will participate in the pilot programme to introduce the two aforementioned languages to the curriculum.
The schools selected to participate are: Enid Scatliffe Pre-Primary, Alexandrina Maduro Primary, Joyce Samuel Primary, Enis Adams Primary, Ebenezer Thomas Primary, and Bregado Flax Educational Centre (primary division).
“The first term of the new academic year 2017, we will be piloting two foreign languages – Mandarin at the early childhood level in Kindergarten to Grade 2, and French at the secondary level in Grades 7 to 9… We cannot delay the inevitable,” Walwyn said during a sitting of the House of Assembly today, June 13.
“Considering the resourcefulness to being bi-lingual or multi-lingual in our current economy, it is prudent to start preparing our students for these imminent job offerings, by providing them with opportunities to choose which foreign language or languages they want to pursue, beginning at the start of their school journey. The ultimate goal in this process is to make at least one foreign language a compulsory core subject, and a stipulation for meeting secondary school graduation requirements in the next five years,” added the education minister.
One-fifth of world speaks Mandarin
Walayn further said his ministry’s decision to introduce Mandarin – a language spoken across China – came from a study that revealed roughly one-fifth of the world’s population already speaks the language.
He explained that the ministry is cognisant that the alphabetic characters of Mandarin are different from other traditional languages such as English, Spanish, and French.
“Hence, our proposal is that Mandarin be introduced at Kindergarten – Grade 1 and Grade 2, when our students are still developing formal language skills. Mandarin will be introduced on a phased basis as a pilot programme in selected schools, and as an extra-curricular activity via Foreign Language Clubs at the primary and secondary levels.”
During the initial stages of introducing Mandarin and French in the local school system, the ministry will hire educators who are native speakers of those languages.
“The contractual agreements will ensure that they will also train local teachers in the use of the language, and thus ensure the development and continuity of the programme in our education system. We have therefore forged a relationship with the Chinese counselor responsible for education in the Chinese UK Embassy, who I met with in January of this year while at the World Education Forum in the United Kingdom,” Walwyn added.
Spanish to be available in all grades
Currently, Spanish is the only foreign language being taught in local schools, from Grade 3 through to 12.
“The introduction of French as an alternative to Spanish at Grade 7 to 9 will hopefully increase the number of students who pursue foreign language studies at the CSEC and CAPE levels,” Walwyn said.
He added that “plans are afoot to include Spanish at all grade levels from Kindergarten through to Grade 12”.
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