Global Grades: Sweden May Add Mandarin to Primary School Curriculum

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Is Chinese becoming the next English?

With a strong backing from the Education Minister Jan Björklund, Sweden is looking into teaching Mandarin in all primary schools. Although there is a growing number of Chinese classes offered in Europe and America, the Scandinavian nation would be the first to universally offer the non-western language if the minister gets his way.

(PHOTOS: Mandarin Class in Minneapolis)

In Sweden, English lessons are mandatory from a young age and are given the choice between French and Spanish as their third language later on.

The country’s quality language education has already been proven through various statistics. In a survey, 85% of Swedes said they felt comfortable conversing in English. The country ranked fourth out of 44 non-Anglo countries in English proficiency.

The forward-thinking minister says adding Chinese as a third language option to give students even more competitive edge as China’s global presence grows. “Chinese will be much more important, from an economic perspective, than French or Spanish,” he told a Swedish newspaper.

(MORE: Why You Should Learn Chinese)

The proposal has yet to be approved by the government. And even if it happens soon, teacher training and curriculum development will take at least 10 to 15 years, the minister said.

Sweden might actually have to rush that one a little bit, with the global trend fast approaching the country. Chinese automobile company Greely bought Gothenburg-based Volvo from Ford this year, and other Chinese investors are seeking to save Saab from collapsing.

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