Tour to China Stimulates Commitment

[Source] [Time]    2017-06-12 13:50:15 

A recent visit by a delegation of principals to China was a first for the region and has led to a greater interest in Chinese culture.

It was a career highlight, said Gisborne Girls' High School principal Jan Kumar.

The seven schools represented were Gisborne Girls' High, Campion College, Ilminster Intermediate, Makaraka School, Central School, Te Kura Reo Rua O Waikirikiri and Kaiti School, as well as Forest View High School (Tokoroa) and Rotorua Boys' High School.

At the Confucius Institute Headquarters Beijing are (back) Ian Ferguson (Forest View HS), Lisa Olsen-Baker (Waikirikiri), Jan Kumar (GGHS), Bruce Buckton (Rotorua BHS), and (front) Hayden Swann (Makaraka), Megan Rangiuia (Ilminster), Heidi Shields (Campion), Yezhu Zhao (Confucius Institute Victoria University), Megan Windybank (Kaiti), Andy Hayward (Central). Pictures supplied

The two-week tour took them to Beijing and Xiamen in southern China, and every hour of the day was filled with school and educational visits.

“We would be up and off by 8am most days and not get back to the hotel until 8pm,” Ms Kumar said.

The tour was well organised and had many formal occasions where they would be welcomed by various groups to discuss educational systems, strategies and pedagogy.

The delegation visited the New Zealand Embassy in Beijing, along with a number of local and international schools and universities, and participants were impressed by the state-of-the-art facilities.

“They are striving for equity in education in terms of facilities and educational outcomes," Ms Kumar said.

"But class sizes are big compared to here, with an average of 55 pupils.”

The trip is designed to improve the understanding of Chinese language and culture, and came about because of the introduction of Mandarin language studies in Gisborne schools this year.

Three Mandarin language assistants (MLA) began teaching in Gisborne this year and classes have become popular with students at all of the schools involved.

Ms Kumar said the trip stimulated her commitment to Chinese language teaching but they all agreed it was not just about the language. They want the students to value the culture. With a greater understanding themselves as a result of the trip, they hoped to share this in their own schools.

For Megan Rangiuia of Ilminster Intermediate, one of the highlights of the trip was interacting with the people and learning about their culture, customs and protocols.

“They were very welcoming and open,” she said.

Pictured after climbing part of the Juyongguan Great Wall are (back) Heidi Shields, Bruce Buckton and Andy Hayward, and (front) Hayden Swann, Ian Ferguson, Megan Rangiuia, Jan Kumar, Lisa Olsen-Baker, Megan Windybank and Yezhu Zhao.

Campion College’s deputy principal Heidi Shields said she felt privileged to have been part of the group.

“We were treated extremely well. There are definitely ways of doing things there that seem quite formal to us,” she said.

Another notable difference was the tea ceremony.

“Everywhere we went, we were given tea. It's a real ritual.”

The Confucius Institute at Victoria University runs the principals' delegation trips every year. They are described as an effective way of stimulating interest in, and commitment to, Chinese language teaching at New Zealand schools.

One of the things that stood out for the group was the inclusion and socialisation of the elderly in society.

They would gather to do group exercise or play cards. In among the high-rise housing there were lots of open areas with exercise equipment.

Mrs Shields said another surprising thing was seeing many people of all ages dancing in the street after dark.

"They would have a portable stereo and be doing everything from ballroom to line-dancing.”

With 21 million people in Beijing, they were not surprised by heavy traffic. Ms Rangiuia said it took a long time to get anywhere.

They visited busy tourist attractions including Tiananmen Square, the Juyongguan Great Wall and the Forbidden City, in temperatures up to 28 degrees.

Pictured after climbing part of the Juyongguan Great Wall are (back) Heidi Shields, Bruce Buckton and Andy Hayward, and (front) Hayden Swann, Ian Ferguson, Megan Rangiuia, Jan Kumar, Lisa Olsen-Baker, Megan Windybank and Yezhu Zhao.

The delegation were thankful for the experience provided and funded by the Confucius Institute, who treated them as honoured guests.

They also appreciated the support of their school boards, which covered the cost of flights.

Ilminster Intermediate will run a cultural day called Discover China supported by the Confucius Institute later in the year.

The Confucius Institute offers workshops each year to support schools with their Mandarin language and culture programme.

“Expert instructors are selected from throughout New Zealand and will offer our students wushu martial arts, folk dancing, dumpling making, calligraphy, and painting.

“We will invite whanau and members of Gisborne's Chinese community to join us.”


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