Mandarin classes in Australia: ‘Chinese teaching Chinese to Chinese’

A soon-to-be released study of enrollments in Mandarin classes in Australia has yet more evidence that the much hyped craze for Mandarin learning isn’t what it might seem to be (as I keep saying).

In Australia, by the final year of senior high school, 94% of those who began to study Mandarin sometime earlier have dropped the subject, and 94% of the relatively small group who remain are ethnically Chinese, resulting in a situation in which “the teaching and learning of Chinese in Australia is overwhelmingly a matter of Chinese teaching Chinese to Chinese.”

Things don’t get much more direct than that.

From a newspaper story that quotes the report:

Unless the drop-out rate is tackled, “there seems little point in planning to expand the number of students starting Chinese at school”.

The report attributes the drop-out rate to three factors. Students studying Chinese as a second language are “overwhelmed” in assessments by “strong numbers” of students who have Chinese as a first language.

Second, they don’t develop sufficient proficiency because of the difficulty in learning Chinese and the inadequate time set aside for it.

Finally, they are trying to learn Chinese “in an often unsupportive environment at school, in their family, and in the community”.

The report, by Dr. Jane Orton of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at Melbourne University, will be presented to a forum late this month on Mandarin language education. I’ll post more once I’ve had a chance to read it.

Thanks to Victor Mair for alerting me to this.


further reading: