By Kirsty Topping
SCHOOLS across Scotland are dropping German in favour of Chinese, figures have revealed.
While nearly all schools continue to teach French, German has seen a fall in its popularity, with the Chinese tongue set to fill the gap.
For the first time in many schools, children will be able to learn Mandarin, the dominant language in China and the world’s most widely spoken language.
Inverclyde council has stopped offering German at all of its seven high schools.
And in East Renfrewshire Mandarin is now on the curriculum at three of its seven schools.
Other councils to include the language on their curriculum include Edinburgh, which will offer it at six of its 23 schools, and Glasgow.
Fife, East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, Falkirk, West Lothian, Perth and Kinross and Dumfries and Galloway are also set to allow pupils to study Mandarin.
In the Borders, pupils can study the language at schools in Peebles and Jedburgh, two out of the area’s nine schools, and at two out of eight East Dunbartonshire schools.
The trend of teaching the language in secondary schools reflects China’s growing place in the world.
Frances Christensen, general manager of the Confucius Institute for Scotland said that “Confucius classrooms” across Scotland had helped spread the language.
She said: “There’s been a concerted effort that Scotland does not get left behind but has a workforce that is open to new languages and other cultures.
“There are currently 11 Confucius classrooms in secondary schools in different parts of the country which act as a hub by providing materialsand activities such as taster sessions to feeder primaries.
“We have to recognize where the economic balance has gone – China is the engine of the world more and more. China came to the fore by opening up over the last 30 years and encouraging more and more people outside the country to study its language and understand its culture.”
The figures showed that Spanish has overtaken German as the second most popular foreign language in many schools.
French is offered at all schools in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee and by most other local councils but German has declined over the last decade.
Fewer than 40% of schools in Glasgow and Edinburgh teach the language to pupils and in the Highlands, where French is taught in nearly all schools, just 16 pupils were entered for this year’s examination – down from 24 in 2002.
Beate Bidenbach, the German Consul in Scotland said the decline of the language meant the country risked losing a key trade partner.
“She said: “The decline of German in Scottish schools is worrying us, definitely. We’ve written to all MSPs, making them aware of the importance of keeping German alive in Scottish schools.
“There is still much more of a relationship between Scotland and Germany than between China or Spain. Work on Renewables, for example, is one are where germany is really strong.
“If Scotland wants German companies to invest here it’s essential that Scottish people learn German.”
A Scottish government spokesman said: “To create a successful and prosperous Scotland it is crucial that young people are attracted to learn the languages they need in the 21st century global marketplace