Chinese checkers: Mandarin teachers in short supply in India

Growing economic and cultural ties with China may have spurred a demand for Mandarin but experts say strict visa norms are preventing teachers of the language in China from coming to India, affecting the quality of instruction.

This even as the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has plans to introduce Mandarin as a foreign language in its 11,000 affiliated schools from Class 6 onwards next year. Ties between the countries are expected to get a further boost as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits India for three days from Wednesday.

"During the last few years teachers from China who were expected to come to our department have been effectively denied visas. This is a policy that must change if the Indian government is serious about introducing Chinese at the CBSE level," said Madhu Bhalla, head of the department of East Asian Studies in Delhi University.

"Currently we have no Chinese language teacher from China. In the past, our students benefited immensely from teachers from China. Chinese is a tonal language and native speakers, or Indian teachers who have spent a considerable time in China, are critical for training students," Bhalla told IANS.

With 75 students in three courses of Chinese language, Delhi University is among the few Indian universities offering such a course.

Other varsities include Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, Banaras Hindu University in Uttar Pradesh and Visva Bharati University in West Bengal. JNU alone has around 190 students for Chinese language courses from undergraduate to PhD level and the authorities say the number of students has increased over the years.

In all, around 37 institutions teach Chinese in India, according to education website

"The growth of the Chinese economy and the movement of Chinese firms outside China definitely means that those who have a fair knowledge of the language increase their choices. The growth of economic relations between India and China also means that language skills will be an added asset for job seekers," she said.

"We find that all of our students get good placements in the tourism industry as well as in MNCs which are looking for people who know Chinese. In fact, we also find that students also find jobs while studying the language," she says.

The School of Chinese Language, Kolkata, the only Chinese teaching institute which claims to have an entirely Chinese faculty and which has over 80 students, agrees that shortage of teachers is an issue.

"The phonetics of Chinese language are different from Indian languages or English. At times, Indian teachers are not able to teach that properly," principal Madan Saraff told IANS on phone.

"Our whole faculty is Chinese. While three of them are from China, others are of Chinese descent. However, getting a work visa for a Chinese national is very difficult and even if a teacher is ready to come, most of the time, visas are not available," he said.

He also has an incident to narrate about the effects of such shortages. "Once, a well known institute invited the consul general of China in Kolkata to an event where the best student, who had done a three-year course, made a welcome speech. The consul clapped at the time, but later said he did not understand a single word," Saraff laughs.

For Mandarin students, however, the scarcity is no joke as it affects their prospects.
Prashant Kaushik, who did a post-intensive advanced diploma in Chinese from Delhi University and also a general scholar diploma course in China, says a fresher can easily get a job at Rs.5-6 lakh per annum.

"However, it also depends upon the proficiency one has," said Kaushik, who is working as a freelance translator. "Besides phonetics, Mandarin has different tones which can be learnt only from the Chinese people," he says.

However, despite a growing demand, the number of students remain low. "Fewer students take Chinese as the language is tough to learn," says Kunal Wadhwa, who got a job with J.P. Morgan bank on the basis of his Mandarin proficiency.

With few students and increasing demand, the Mandarin market in India can only grow, experts say. "The market for Chinese language will grow for at least the next 10 to 15 years," Saraff said.


Comments (+)