Too few UK schools are teaching Mandarin Chinese, hampering young people’s prospects and putting the economy at risk, it was claimed.
The British Council raised concerns the number of schools offering the language is “stagnant at best”.
Just 3 per cent of primary-school teachers say that their school offers Mandarin lessons, along with nine per cent of secondary teachers, according to a survey commissioned by the British Council and HSBC.
The poll, which questioned more than 800 teachers, found, overall, six per cent of schools teach the subject and 91 per cent do not.
Two per cent of those questioned said their school used to offer it, but have stopped, and a further 1 per cent said they were planning to start Mandarin classes. The survey suggests the number of schools who are beginning to teach the language is dropping off.
Some 29 per cent of those who said that their school provided Mandarin lessons said they had started teaching it between three and four years ago.
British Council chief executive Martin Davidson said: “There are few more important economic partners for us than China.
“But, despite perceptions that more and more UK schools are teaching Mandarin, all the evidence suggests that the real number is stagnant at best and far too small.
“Without a workforce that can understand and communicate effectively with one of the world’s biggest economies, there’s a real risk that the UK will struggle to compete and fall behind as a result.”