New Chinese GCSE focuses on culture as well as language

Wednesday 31 Aug 2016

Students studying Chinese at GCSE from 2017 will learn about culture as well as language, under plans by exam board AQA to help young people connect with the world's second biggest economy.

The new GCSE features topics looking at customs and festivals in Chinese-speaking countries, as well as environmental issues and the use of technology and social media by Chinese people in everyday life.

The qualification also recognises the importance of transactional language. Students will be assessed on their speaking skills in role-play scenarios and photo card discussions relating to topics such as work, sport or global issues.

Students will develop a sound grasp of Chinese grammar, and a vocabulary that will help them carry out useful tasks, like arranging travel or social events and applying for university. Reading exams will include literary texts, widening students' exposure to a range of historical and contemporary Chinese literature.

Judith Rowland-Jones, AQA's Head of Languages, said: 

"All the evidence suggests that there's a huge need for young people to develop a much better all-round understanding of China in order for the UK to stay competitive on the world stage.

"Language and culture go hand in hand, so it's not simply enough to speak someone's language – you have to be able to connect with them culturally too. That's why a GCSE Chinese course needs to be about much more than words."

Recent research by the British Council showed that only 1% of people in the UK can speak Chinese well enough to hold a conversation – despite it being the world's most widely-spoken language, with more than 800 million first-language speakers.

China overtook Japan in 2011 to become the world's second largest economy, and is a growing market for UK businesses with UK goods exports to China more than doubling since 2010.

AQA has submitted the draft plans for the new qualification – for first teaching in September 2017 – to the regulator Ofqual for accreditation.

The exam board has also submitted plans for new GCSEs in Bengali, Italian, Modern Hebrew, Panjabi, Polish and Urdu – all of which include a similar focus on culture. AQA will be developing A-levels in many of these subjects, as well as Biblical Hebrew, for first teaching in 2018.

New AQA GCSEs, AS and A-levels in French, German and Spanish have already been accredited by Ofqual for first teaching in 2016.