Experts have called for additional government funding to build “China’s skills” in the UK education system in the face of “a serious national shortage” of Chinese literacy and Mandarin speakers.
Despite China’s growing importance in the world, research by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (HAPPE) has concluded that the UK lacks sufficient knowledge and understanding of China to “make informed decisions”.
The report cites the government’s decision to remove Huawei from the UK network in light of perceived security risks, at an estimated cost of BT £ 500m. Government “.
According to Happy, the number of students studying Chinese has not increased in the last 25 years, and the number of Chinese studies departments in UK universities offering single honors bachelor’s degrees has dropped from 13 to nine by 2019. And 2020.
In schools, modern China is “largely absent” from the curriculum and most students will not engage with China at all during their studies. There has been some progress in the study of Mandarin in schools, but the qualifications are “problematic”, says Happy Report, and the numbers are low.
Although universities have strong research and expertise, this is often the result of hiring experts from the rest of the world. Chinese experts, meanwhile, are facing challenges over academic independence and “not being transparent enough” about the source of funding for universities.
The Happy Report is based on interviews with more than 40 experts in education, government and business. The academics interviewed agreed that despite the controversy surrounding Confucius Institutes, they have played a significant role in Mandarin education in the absence of other investments.
The report called on the government to consider a “generational challenge” to developing Chinese literacy in the UK, to develop a strategy to address it, and to consider investing in funding for Chinese studies at universities and training in modules covering school teachers. . Modern China.
Rana Meter, a professor of Chinese history and politics at Oxford University, writes in the report: Impact on the UK.
“As with any democratic society, the British public will have differing views on how to deal with China. These views will often be strongly expressed, as is true only in a free society. But those conversations and debates can no longer afford to take a quick and extreme view of China. The time has come to deepen the debate. “
The report’s author, Michael Natzler, adds: “Today, regardless of the level of skepticism or support for China’s actions, there is an expert consensus that the UK lacks sufficient knowledge and understanding to make informed decisions. This is a problem that has been waiting a long time. ”