Newsletter: “Chinese-learning Craze” in the UK
--A Visit to Bohunt School, an Active Promoter of Chinese Teaching
With China’s enhancing economic strength and growing cultural influence, there is an increasing number of British people learning Chinese now. Along with the book-donation ceremony of China Publishing Group Corporation (CPG), a journalist from Xinhua visited Bohunt School in Hampshire and had firsthand experience of the growing “Chinese-learning craze” there.
Bohunt School started to offer Chinese courses 20 years ago. In 2010, Bohunt School became the first secondary school in the UK to introduce immersion language teaching, and Chinese is one of the main languages that adopt this approach. Neil Strowger, Headmaster at Bohunt School, played a leading role in introducing the teaching method. He noted that, young people should learn Chinese not only because of the importance of the language itself, but also because of Chinese culture. Culture and language can complement and reinforce each other, which can never be learnt and understood separately.
Speaking of the Chinese education at the school, Mr. Strowger was more than excited: students who take Chinese as an elective course have five Chinese classes each week, and their math, science, history, art and physical courses are also taught in Chinese. Moreover, their math class even adopts the Chinese method
“As a father, I’m very proud. My daughter is a Grade 7 student of the school, and she takes part in the immersion Chinese teaching. Her progress in Chinese really amazed me. I set a goal for myself, and that is, to use Chinese to conduct daily dialogue.” said Mr. Strowger.
On Mar. 13th, 2014, Bohunt students performing at the launch ceremony of Bohunt’s Confucius Classroom
So far, there have been 9 Chinese teachers at Bohunt School, which is more than most schools in the UK. There are over 1600 pupils at the school, of whom, about 500 take Chinese as an elective course. Zeng Bin, teaching Chinese at Bohunt School, told the journalist that there are mainly two reasons for students to learn Chinese. On one hand, a lot of parents encourage their children to learn Chinese due to China’s growing global influence. On the other hand, children are attracted by diversified teaching activities. They have developed strong interest in Chinese culture in learning Chinese.
Grade 9 student Freya Adam said that, she had been learning Chinese for about three years. Even if she thought it was very difficult, she still liked it, especially writing in Chinese. In her conversation with the journalist, her Chinese was not that fluent, but she still tried to speak more.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK sharing experience of learning Chinese with Bohunt teachers and students before his visit to China in late November, 2013
A Confucius Classroom was founded at Bohunt School in 2013. When the journalist arrived at the school, students were actively participating in class discussion under their teacher’s guidance. A reading room with various kinds of Chinese books was set up near the classroom, including Chinese classics and instructional books for beginners. Adam picked up Happy Chinese, a series of books for Chinese learners, and said that, “These series of books focusing on both reading and writing and containing instructional CDs, are very useful.”
Raymond Morton, Chairman of the governing body of Bohunt School, told the journalist that, during his 25 years working for the school, the most important change is the introduction of Chinese courses. “The UK needs to trade with China, which makes it an important skill to engage in communication in Chinese directly”.
In 2015, Bohunt School invited 5 teachers from China’s high schools for an experiment of “Chinese-method teaching”. During this experiment, BBC produced a three-episode documentary “Are Our Kids Tough Enough” which aroused heated discussion and reflection in the UK on the differences between Chinese and British education and also brought Bohunt School to fame.
During this year’s London Book Fair, CPG made a visit to Bohunt School and brought over 100 books, including Chinese textbooks, reference books, children’s books and other books about Chinese history and culture and invited Swedish sinologist Cecilia Lindqvist to give a lecture on the topic of “the beauty of Chinese characters”.
It is CPG’s second visit to Bohunt School since its first donation of books to this school in April 2016. Jiang Jun, Vice President of CPG, hoped that students at Bohunt school could make full use of these new resources to “learn more about China, so that there would be more sinologist among them when they grow up and they will serve as envoys of friendship between China and the UK”.
(Story by Deng Qian, Xinhua News Agency, London, Mar. 13th)