confucius.jpgYou've heard about the growing number of schools in the west offering Mandarin lessons to give their pupils a head-start in tomorrow's global economy. The UK government wants to go further and inculcate British teenagers with the teachings of Confucius.

According to the Daily Telegraph, UK schools minister Jim Knight wants to bring the ancient philosophy into English classrooms and to give pupils the chance to learn Mandarin.

Knight announced the new initiative after returning from a fact-finding trip to China to investigate if English schools could draw on the experiences of Chinese academies which produce some of the brightest students in the world.

During the trip, Knight visited the Confucius Institute in Beijing where he discussed setting up “Confucius Classrooms” or centres of excellence in teaching of Mandarin and Chinese culture in English state schools.

In particular, he wants to discover why Chinese children outperform children from all other ethnic groups in the UK schooling system.

Recent statistics showed some 86 per cent of Chinese 11-year-olds reached the required National Curriculum standard in the UK compared with only 80 per cent of white British children. The figures even include recent immigrants who do not have English as a first language.

King said:

Confucius said that alongside knowledge you should have time to think. It is not just about acquisition of knowledge but about respect for the importance of education and the family and that is something I would love to see engendered in out culture as well as it is in China.”

No doubt the guy means well, but I don't think the solution to the panoply of problems facing UK schools — and those of other western countries — lies in teaching something as alien as Confucian philosophy to kids haven't even mastered the basics of English grammar.

It reminds me a bit of the gushing article that former UK premier Tony Blair wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year praising China's handling of the Olympics and, by extension, pretty much anything Chinese.

A growing number of UK schools teach Mandarin and some have even elevated it to rank equally or even ahead of traditional foreign languages like German or French. Needless to say, Tony Blair's eight-year-old is learning Mandarin. So too is the daughter of investment guru Jim Rogers — see this EngagingChina story.