Italian High School Lists Chinese as a Graduation Exam Subject
Recently, the ANSA News Agency, the La Stampa, the Corriere della Sera and many other mainstream Italian media reported that a language high school in Trento incorporated Chinese in its graduation examination. It is reported that 29 graduates in Sophie Scholl, a high school specializing in linguistics in Trento, will sit for the Chinese graduation exam this year. Sophie Scholl has thus become the first school in Italy to list Chinese as a graduation exam subject, attracting wide attention from the Italian media and the public.
According to the La Stampa, Sophie Scholl officially started to offer Chinese courses five years ago. Starting from the simplest Chinese song “Two Tigers”, the students began to know about this very distant but attractive language. After five-year teaching practice, the first 29 graduates will have their Chinese graduation exam, making Sophie Scholl one of the first high schools in Italy to list Chinese as a graduation exam subject.
Interest-oriented Chinese class of the Confucius Classroom of Tivoli State School affiliated to the Confucius Institute at University of Rome La Sapienza
In fact, with China’s rapid development these years, its influence to world culture is growing. Chinese has become one of the world's most popular languages, and more and more foreigners and foreign students start to learn Chinese. According to incomplete statistics, Chinese courses are currently running in 150 schools at various levels in Italy, of which some have listed Chinese as compulsory courses. For graduation, students have to earn enough credit hours and pass the exam. Maria Silva Boccardi, Director of Sophie Scholl, who is proud of the results of the five-year Chinese teaching, said that they set up the course five years ago because many students asked for it. Only a few schools provided trial Chinese courses back then. Now, Chinese teaching has become a crucial part in our overall teaching plan, and this year will witness our pioneer batch of graduates.
It is reported that English and German are currently compulsory courses in Sophie Scholl, and students are free to choose Chinese, French, Spanish, Russian and other languages as a third foreign language. While only officially provided in 2012, Chinese is the most popular one among students. According to statistics, 145 of 910 students in Sophie Scholl have chosen to study Chinese. The number of Chinese language students in the school may not be very high, but Trento’s population is less than 120,000, so Chinese language students actually hold a high proportion here. “Chinese will be a world language in the future”, according to Director Boccardi, “the local education authorities in Trento and even the Italian Ministry of Education have offered strong support for the establishment of Chinese courses and in listing Chinese as a graduation exam subject in the school. There are an increasing number of Italian schools start to run Chinese courses, not only laying a solid foundation for the future development of students, but also improving the schools’ competitiveness. In short, the Chinese teaching of educational institutions in Italy is showing a more dynamic trend. A teaching and learning experience sharing seminar on Chinese teaching was held nationwide before then”.
Roberto, a Sophie Scholl student who is about to take the Chinese test before graduation, said that “writing Chinese characters is the most difficult part in learning the language. You need to remember the strokes and structure of each character. Although learning Chinese is difficult for Italian students, but when considering looking for better job opportunities overseas, China would surely be my top choice. In recent years, China’s achievements draw great attention from the world, which means great opportunities for everyone”. Meanwhile, Roberto’s classmate, Martina said that “there is no doubt that Chinese will be a world language in the future. Chinese is now one of the most popular languages in the world, and it still continues to spread to every corner of the world. I have not considered my career planning in the future. Perhaps I will stay in Italy, since more and more Italian companies and enterprises share close business and trade relations with China”.
“The Sound of Reading” performed by students from the Confucius Classroom of Tivoli State School affiliated to the Confucius Institute at University of Rome La Sapienza at 2017 New Year Concert
With the in-depth development of Chinese teaching activities, Italian schools running Chinese courses tend to carry out exchanges programs in China during holidays. Through contact and interaction with Chinese students, Italian students, on the one hand, could improve their level of Chinese; on the other they could feel the achievements of China’s social development and learn China’s extensive and profound culture as well as its unique local conditions and customs. For example, Sophie Scholl will organize students to visit Shenyang during this summer vacation. Maria Assunta Contino, a Chinese teacher at Sophie Scholl and the organizer of Chinese graduation exam, will accompany the students during their journey in China. Contino said that compared with students who learn other languages, the students learning Chinese are generally more concentrated and dedicated. Once they choose to learn Chinese, students must treat it seriously, otherwise it is impossible for them to get a good score. Contino believes that exchanging in China can not only improve students’ Chinese proficiency, but also help them to understand Chinese history and culture. “We also launched courses of Chinese history. When taking a graduation exam, students have to show their abilities in oral and written Chinese, and some knowledge of Chinese history and culture”, Contino added.
It is learned that Sophie Scholl has established cooperative relations with a language high school in Chengdu, and they have become brother schools. Through cooperation between the two schools, Chinese students who intend to learn Italian can also begin their school life in Sophie Scholl. Currently, there are dozens of Chinese students studying in Sophie Scholl, who are warmly welcomed by the Chinese language students in the school. “For Italian students, China is such a distant country, yet it has never been so close,” Director Boccardi noted.
Story by Chen Xiaochen, Guangming Daily, Mar. 1st, 2017, Page 15