Monday, 18 June 2007

Brighton College, has taken the unprecedented step of announcing that Mandarin Chinese will be a core part of the curriculum for all pupils in the College from aged 3 upwards.

The College hit the headlines in January 2006 when Headmaster, Richard Cairns, announced that the language would be compulsory for all new pupils in the senior school. One year on, he has decided to extend the teaching of Mandarin into his Pre-Prep School which pupils join at the age of 3.

Pupils in the Nursery and Reception will each receive three short sessions of Mandarin per week. In time, every child in the Pre-Prep (roll 200), the Prep School (roll 300) and the College (roll 700) will be learning Mandarin Chinese in addition to their other subjects.

Headmaster of Brighton College, Richard Cairns, has no doubt as to the wisdom of such a move: ‘we have taken this decision because we want to ensure that every child leaves Brighton College prepared for the realities of the 21st century, one of which is that China is certain to be the second largest economic power in the world by the time these 3 year olds leave the College in 2022. I believe that it is essential that as many children as possible are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities that this presents. A knowledge of the language, culture and politics of China will also encourage children to be less anglocentric and more willing to engage with very different societies from our own’.

‘It makes sense to begin this process with our very youngest pupils. I witnessed a one-off lesson yesterday with a class of Nursery pupils and was struck by how receptive they were. The concept of a word changing its meaning according to the tone used seemed not to faze them at all.’

Sue Wicks, Headmistress of Brighton College Pre-Prep School is tremendously excited by the idea: ‘Young children have a thirst for knowledge and an openness of mind and ear that make them natural linguists. They are not embarrassed by the occasional mispronunciation in a way that a teenaged pupil might be’. French is already taught at Brighton College Prep-Prep School for 3-4 year olds.

Brighton College, now co-educational, is the oldest boys’ public school in Sussex and a leading academic day and boarding school. Sixteen pupils secured places at Oxford and Cambridge this year – including Head Boy, Roland Singer-Kingsmith who is off to Oxford to study Arabic. Former pupils of the school include the historian Lord Skidelsky, the author Peter Mayle, the sculptor David Nash and the actor Michael Hordern.

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