CHINA is pleased.

The People's Republic, in fact, is so chuffed with the way Strathclyde University boosts Chinese teaching in Scottish schools that it has just given it a big official slap on the back.

The Beijing government front that sponsors Confucius Institutes - Mandarin learning hubs - has singled out the one at Strathclyde for praise.

Cue as much delight in Glasgow and Edinburgh as in the Chinese capital. Angela Constance, the new education secretary, said yesterday's Global Confucius Hub of the Year accolade was "wonderful news for Scotland as a whole".

Sir Jim McDonald, Strathclyde's principal, said more than 20,000 pupils across the country were learning a bit of Chinese thanks to the Institute.

"We equip these pupils with a global outlook and skills that will support them throughout their careers in business, industry and the professions," he said, according to a self-congratulatory press release.

I don't know what the Chinese is for mince. But Sir Jim is talking it. There just aren't thousands of Scottish kids learning Chinese. Nor, really, should there be.

There is no realistic prospect of mass teaching of Chinese in Scottish schools. Not when we are failing - in what amounts to a cultural and economic catastrophe - to teach basic languages like French and German.

Politicians and school and varsity bureaucrats love Confucius Classrooms. Firstly, because somebody else, in this case Red China, helps to pay for them. And secondly because they help mask Scotland's historic retreat into a linguistic black hole.

Don't take my word for it. What do Scottish experts make of the work done by the Institute? Well, Sir Jim could have found that out quite easily. He employs one Scotland's leading authorities on teaching modern languages, Dan Tierney.

Now Dr Tierney thinks Chinese is, to put it politely, "less relevant" than European languages for kids.

He's not alone. As Ms Constance and Sir Jim rejoice in Chinese praise, Scotland's language-teaching community despairs.

Few need reminding that the number of teenagers sitting language Highers is down.

Strathclyde Uni used to produce engineers who knew German. Not any more.

Sir Jim's is waxing lyrical about what amounts to some modest awareness-raising classes for Chinese while his own institution has given up on German. Bluntly, this is not a serious position.

Chinese, of course, isn't the only fad in language learning.

Ms Constance has inherited 1+2, the Scottish Government's claim that it is living up the Barcelona Council aspirations adopted across the EU by introducing two languages in to primary schools.

Now there are plenty of committed teachers trying to make this work. But, let's be honest, we are not doing in Barrhead what they are doing in Barcelona. A Catalan teacher helping 10-year-olds with their English might have 18 years language learning under their belt.

In Renfrewshire, as an example, there are primary teachers going in to a classroom and "teaching" Spanish after four days training. How do our politicians - almost all monoglots - respond when challenged on this? Well, some point to Confucius Classrooms. Not good enough.