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China considers dropping English as core subject

Calls for English to be dropped as a core subject in China’s national school curriculum were heard at the country’s annual Two Sessions conference, with National Committee member Xu Jin proposing on 4 March that more emphasis should be put on physical education, music and art.

This is not the first time that complaints about the dominance of English have been heard at the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, which together make up the Two Sessions. This may reflect the increasing political tensions between the Chinese government and Anglosphere powers, including the US, UK and Australia. 

Previously, most complaints have been around the position of English language as one of three compulsory subjects in the Gaokao, the high-stakes university entrance exam which can make or break a student’s future prospects. During the Two Sessions in 2014, calls were made to reduce the amount of marks awarded to English in the exam or remove it altogether. The government’s response was to allow the English section of the exam to be taken on two dates each year in an attempt to reduce exam stress.

Then, at the 2017 conference, there were calls to make it an elective subject at Gaokao.

Xu Jin’s proposal for dropping English as a core subject for children of compulsory school age (6 to 15) would automatically lead to a revision of the exam, which has had English as a compulsory subject, along with Chinese and maths, since the Gaokao was reintroduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1977 as part of his Reform and Opening Up policy.

A poll by conducted by China Youth Daily found that 43% of respondents supported Xu’s call to drop English as a core subject, while 48% disagreed, with many pointing out the importance of English for science.

English is the most widely spoken language worldwide, with some 1.35 billion speakers, including those who speak it as a second or foreign language, according to Statista. Mandarin Chinese ranks second, with 1.12 billion.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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