Deputy Minister Simai Mohamed Said told the House of Representatives that the decision to introduce the language has been informed by increasing commercial and social interaction between Zanzibar and China.
Responding to a question from Paje lawmaker Jaku Hashim Ayoub who wanted to know when the language will start being taught in secondary schools, Simai said those plans were at an advanced stage.
“I hereby inform the House that we are working on plans to introduce the Chinese language in our secondary school curriculum to make it easier for students from Zanzibar who get an opportunity to further their studies in China to master their courses,” he stated.
Riziki Pembe Juma, the minister for Education and Vocational Training recently visited several higher learning institutions in China as part of efforts to lay the groundwork for introducing the Chinese language in the secondary education curriculum in Zanzibar.
“The ministry has already introduced the Chinese language diploma course at the State University of Zanzibar,” she said.
Through its Department of Foreign Languages, the State University of Zanzibar teaches Chinese alongside English, French, German, Arabic, Portuguese and Spanish, she elaborated.
The Confucius Institute at the University of Dar es Salaam also offers Chinese, she said.
Last year, Kenya announced plans to introduce the Chinese language in its secondary school syllabus, with the country’s Curriculum Development Institute saying the design and scope of the Mandarin syllabus has been completed and will be rolled in out in 2020.
Primary school pupils from grade four (aged 10) and onwards will be able to take the course.
In South Africa, the Chinese language has been an optional language course for students since 2014, and in December 2018 Uganda introduced Mandarin to secondary students in selected schools.
Standard Chinese, usually called Mandarin, is the official standard language of China and Taiwan, and an official language in Singapore.
About 1.2 billion people (around 16 per cent of the world's population) speak some form of Chinese as their first language.
Varieties of Chinese are usually considered by native speakers to be regional variants of ethnic Chinese speech, without consideration of whether they are mutually intelligible, experts maintain.