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Stepney children urged to learn Chinese languages

PUBLISHED: 11:23 14 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:23 14 July 2014

Dragon invades Chinese Independent School of Tower Hamlets graduation day

Dragon invades Chinese Independent School of Tower Hamlets graduation day

© Rehan Jamil

More children are being urged to learn Chinese languages as part of a campaign for London’s East End to lead the country in promoting Mandarin.

London’s original Chinatown emerged close to the docks at Limehouse, in the heart of the Victorian East End.

The Chinesae community has long since gone.

But Tower Hamlets Council wants youngsters today to capitalise on China’s economic growth with business and career opportunities as it becomes more important as a world trading powerhouse.

Mandarin is now spoken by 800 million people today—yet just 3,000 pupils in this country sat Chinese languages GCSEs last year, the council’s education department points out.

“We want more students to have the ability to speak Mandarin,” Mayor Lutfur Rahman said. “By the time most of the children born today leave school, China will probably be the leading economic power in the world.”

He was speaking after 60 children aged three to 18 from Stepney’s Chinese Independent School of Tower Hamlets were presented with certificates in Mandarin and Cantonese, at a graduation ceremony held at the nearby Mulberry School for Girls.

The graduation event, attended by families featured a traditional Chinese dance by performers aged four to seven from the school’s dance group.

Chinese immigrants became significant from the 1880s when they arrived on ships at Thames dockyards in east London and worked mainly in laundry and catering trades in Limehouse and Stepney.

The Chinese Independent School of Tower Hamlets has been running for 30 years, based at St Mary and St Michael Primary, offering specialist language sessions during the mornings.

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