Today's Big Stories

Why introducing Mandarin in SA schools doesn't make cents

Daily Maverick journalist Andrea Teagle is adamant that the Mandarin roll-out in South African schools is not a good idea.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga introduced Mandarin as an optional subject in 44 public schools across the country this year.

Teagle says that the opportunity costs are too high, while government does not have adequate resources to teach the language well enough.

According to Teagle, the language is difficult and time-consuming to learn because of its structure, characters and idiomatic nature.

It's estimated that it takes about 2 000 hours to reach beginners level.

Andrea Teagle, Daily Maverick journalist

She says that knowledge of at least 2 000 characters is required to read a newspaper alone, while learners typically come out of school knowing around only 500 characters.

She says that it would be of more use for government to focus on improving the quality of teaching for other subjects and indigenous languages.

However, Motshekga says that she envisages that, in the next 5 years, 500 schools will offer the subject.

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