Chinese Confucius Institute’s are located globally with the aim of promoting the Chinese language and culture. The announcement this week by the Chinese Confucius Institute in conjunction with Lagos State policy makers; that Mandarin will be introduced onto the Lagos Public School syllabus’ in 2013 has caused a flurry. My issue with this state government policy is that it does not adequately educate its citizenry about purpose. Importing a language and culture that is somewhat alien, does not initially seem like a ‘need’ for a mega city which is in the process of defining itself.
Public schools in Lagos target a demographic where at least one house holder member earns roughly $1 a day. Prof. Lirong Jiang, a co-director of the institute believes this is a great step forward, because the Nigerian students can explore further education options in China. Arguably this will be a great foundation for further study in China, however most of the students in this demographic will be unable to travel out of the country, based on their potential per capita incomes and the stringent visa application rules. The Chinese Confucius Institute coordinator in Lagos this week stated that the language inclusion on the syllabus was necessary because China has become the new destination ‘for economic growth and technology development’. On a pragmatic basis the utilitarian benefits are somewhat pyrrhic, and potentially redundant. Is it worth the investment when only a handful of students will get state sponsored scholarships for study abroad?
-Languages on the present curriculum are not mastered by the students so is there need to expand an underfunded and capacity inefficient system?
-In a state where teacher’s just threatened strike action by the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) if their salaries were not increased by 27.5%, how will a new influx of teacher’s fluent in Mandarin be supported?
-Is there a bilateral purpose or exchange structure set up between Nigeria and China? Will public school students from China and Nigeria ascend to an exchange program if they excel in the language?
-Culture should be learned and experienced. Does Lagos state have the capacity to support excursion trips to China?
With most government initiatives there is arguably method, and I had to discover why the Lagos State Government was very confident about the institution of the new language. In 2008, the first Lady of Lagos State, Dame Abimbola Fashola in 2008 ran a successful ‘L.E.A.R.N Mandarin’ initiative. The success of this L.E.A.R.N initiative is probably a reason to extend it to all students across the state. Once the state provides the cost implications of this rather ambitious policy, only then can we truly say yah or nah, having scrutinized the cost benefit analysis based on their extensive research and extrapolations.
So as usual we will watch and wait and apply wisdom in further discussions about the cost/benefits of learning ‘Nigerianese’!