Fairfield Prep School has become one of only a handful of Preparatory schools in the UK to teach Mandarin as part of its Modern Foreign Languages.
All Year 5 pupils from the school have been learning Mandarin since last September and recently undertook an assessment, which counts towards around 15% of a GCSE in Mandarin.
Mandarin is spoken in a number of countries including China, Malaysia Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Philippines and Mongolia. Furthermore, it is estimated that around one in six people in the world speak Mandarin. Not only will additional language skills be developed, but pupils have also had the opportunity to hone their artistic skills; the iconographic characters are created using strokes like painting.
This unique offering provides around 80 pupils with a half hour class each week. They started with learning basic greetings, followed by counting and have recently started learning the names for foods. There have been many opportunities to explore Chinese culture in Mandarin lessons with pupils learning about key Chinese festivals including the Spring Festival (also known as Chinese New Year), and the Lantern Festival throughout the year.
Mandarin is written using characters and symbols, not letters, so pupils have been learning using a system called ‘pinyin’ which provides a phonetic pronunciation of the word using English letters.
Claire Tatton, Head of Modern Foreign Languages at Fairfield Prep School explains: “After the initial nervousness, our children here at Fairfield have whole-heartedly embraced learning Mandarin. Learning Mandarin gives you access to communicate with many people and to connect on a deeper level, not just in Asia but across the world. With a mixture of teacher-led lessons, videos, songs and games, the children have made steady progress. They have learnt hard and played hard!”
Year 5 pupil Jai said: “I really enjoyed all the funny songs, learning the characters and eating the food! I rate Mandarin 9/10.”
“I really enjoyed learning Mandarin as it was something very new and it challenged me,” added Asher.
Following the recent assessment, which is accredited by the Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB), the pupils were delighted with their results, which will count towards 10-15% of a GCSE in Mandarin. Just over 43% of the pupils who sat the assessment gained a distinction and 23% were awarded a merit!
It is anticipated that a Mandarin extra-curricular club will be available for pupils who have undertaken the Mandarin assessment and wish to continue their learning of the language and culture into Year 6.
Following the success of the first year of learning this new language, Fairfield Prep School will continue to offer Mandarin lessons for the next Year 5 cohort in September.