English learners worldwide may peak by 2010, spurred by China

LONDON, Feb. 16 Kyodo

By 2010 there could be around 2 billion people learning English, according to a new report commissioned by the British Council.

The report says much of the projected growth will come from India and China, which have been promoting English in primary schools.

”English Next,” written by language consultant David Graddol, also reveals that English-speaking countries are expected to gradually lose their share of the Asian student market as more young people stay in their home countries or region in order to be educated.

English will remain the most used language in business but Mandarin Chinese will also increase in popularity, particularly among Asian countries, says the report.

By 2010 estimates suggest English will account for 28.2 percent of the world’s economy with Chinese representing 22.8 percent.

An estimated 30 million people are studying Mandarin and Beijing expects this to rise to around 100 million in the next few years.

The report says that much of the growth in English will come from China which has recently boosted its teaching in primary schools.

But this growth is expected to fall quite steeply after 2010 as the population gradually falls and better-educated youngsters do not need so many English lessons at secondary school level. By 2050 there could be around 500-600 million English learners.

This could mean that English teachers will increasingly be looking after remedial pupils at secondary school levels, predicts Graddol.

The report says China’s plans to boost English teaching have affected other countries.

”China’s decision to make English a key part of its strategy for economic development has had a galvanizing impact on neighboring countries, where enthusiasm for English was in danger of waning,” he writes.

”By the end of 2005, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan and Taiwan were all expressing grave anxiety about their national proficiency in English and had announced new educational initiatives.”

A tighter visa regime in many countries has already resulted in a fall in Chinese students to English-speaking nations, but Graddol believes that there are more fundamental problems.

He says improvements in educational standards across Asia mean that more students will consider staying in their own countries.

Moreover, many Asian countries are trying to attract students from their own region. China is likely to become a net exporter of higher education this year and is marketing itself to students in India, Japan and South Korea.

Also, nations such as Singapore and Malaysia are attracting international students by offering courses taught through the medium of English, Graddol notes.

COPYRIGHT 2006 Kyodo News International, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group

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