The Education Minister of South Africa announced that students will now have the option to study Mandarin Chinese. Angie Motshekga said that the course offerings will be optional and examinable. China is South Africa’s largest trading partner, and approximately one billion native speakers speak Mandarin Chinese, the largest group of native speakers in the world.
Teachers’ unions in South Africa aren’t happy about the move. As reported in the Mail & Guardian Africa, many wonder if it is a good idea for students to learn Chinese, especially if China one day ceases to be South Africa’s largest trading partner. Many wonder if the Chinese will learn to speak many of the African languages available.
As the South African economy continues to struggle, some see this as a way to open new markets and build more business. Despite the talk of shared history and partnerships though, the objectives of China have always been clear: Chinese interests come first.
All Africa reported that the plan came from South African president Jacob Zuma and begins implementation in 2016. It is the latest addition to the languages offered in the educational system which also include German, Serbian, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, Tamil, Telegu, and Urdu. The plan to implement the optional language was signed by President Zuma last year.
It is part of a 10-year plan to be implemented first in grades four through nine. The goal of the plan was to strengthen educational and policy ties between the China and South Africa. Grade 11 will receive the courses in 2017, and grade 12 will receive it in 2018.
This comes at a time when the South African government has been struggling to deal with xenophobia in parts of South Africa, as well as white genocide and farm murders. The South African government has so far failed to address these issues. Criticism has also been leveled at the political party, Economic Freedom Fighters, and their leader Julius Malema, as farm murders and attacks against farmers have increased in the areas where the Economic Freedom Fighters have a stronghold.
The teachers’ union in South Africa is powerful, and their response to the new curriculum was, “over our dead bodies.” Although the basics of the policy have been announced, there have been no announcements on the details of how the policy will be fully implemented or who will teach the courses.
Although the human rights abuses of China were considered, the move to deepen ties between China and South Africa were economic.
What do you think of the school systems adding Chinese to the South Africa school curriculum? Do you believe it will benefit the South Africans more or the Chinese?
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