Hanban sets guidelines for Mandarin teachers

Updated: 2012-12-13 09:06

By Cheng Yingqi and Luo Wangshu (China Daily)

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The Confucius Institute Headquarters released its updated guidelines for Mandarin teachers worldwide on Wednesday in a bid to make them simpler and more practical.

The revision of The Standards for Teachers of Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages - which was in the pipeline for two years - focuses on educating younger students and communication across cultures.

"The demand for Mandarin teachers has been growing rapidly in recent years, especially at primary and middle schools," said Ma Jianfei, deputy director of the headquarters, also known as Hanban. "We adapted the standards to increase their practicality."

First published in 2007, the standards have so far not been used to certify teachers.

"The original version was a thick document that included comprehensive terms on every skill, but it was difficult to apply, given the situations in different countries," Ma said.

In 2010, the institute decided to update the guidelines. It borrowed ideas from other language institutes, held professional seminars and conducted surveys of teachers. The updated standards will be used as a reference to grant certificates and for teacher training.

The annual global demand for Mandarin teachers stands at about 10,000, but China is able to send out only about 2,000 teachers a year, Beijing Evening News reported, citing Hanban figures.

In 2015, there will be about 200 million people learning Mandarin, increasing the demand for teachers to about 5 million, the newspaper estimated.

The Confucius Institute is not the only institution eyeing the huge market. Some organizations are already handing out certificates for Mandarin teachers. One of the most famous certificates is being given by the International Profession Certification Association, which is based in the United States.

However, the IPCA's certificate is not required for Mandarin teaching jobs.

Xu Lin, director of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, said an authoritative qualification for teachers means that the "institute will have a greater say". Xu added that the updated standards will be promoted inside and outside China.

"We can't expect all Mandarin-teaching institutions to use the standards immediately, but we can promote them gradually," Xu said. "In Confucius Institutes, we will apply the standards strictly."

Xu said that all teachers at Confucius Institutes will be required to pass tests for the certificate, but did not specify a timeframe for the move.

But not everyone agrees with this view.

Ping Yi, a 28-year-old volunteer who taught Mandarin in Thailand, said she does not believe that certificates are necessary.

"Certificates are not an indication of how well the teachers will perform in the classroom. However, the standards may help to screen out unqualified applicants," said Ping, who now works as a training manager at a catering company in Kunming, Yunnan province.

Contact the writers at chengyingqi@chinadaily.com.cn and luowangshu@chinadaily.com.cn

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