Celebrating Gisborne's Mandarin Language Assistants

[Source]    Gisborne Herald [Time]    2017-11-23 15:14:37 

STUDENTS from Ilminster Intermediate and Waikirikiri schools celebrated the contribution of the Mandarin Language Assistants (MLAs) to Gisborne with a special China Day event last week.

Bin Tang, Bai Hong Bai and Yuning Long were selected by the Confucius Institute at Victoria University to be the first MLAs to come to Gisborne as part of their Chinese language programme. The programme aims to increase opportunities for New Zealand students to learn Chinese and experience Chinese culture.

The Gisborne cohort of MLAs are all Masters students, many with degrees in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, who are getting practical teaching experience here in New Zealand, said Director of the Confucius Institute Rebecca Needham.

They are carefully selected by the insititute which works closely with the schools and communities that host them.

The three MLAs are shared between schools. Bin Tang works at Kaiti School, Ilminster Intermediate and Waikirikiri School; Bai Hong Bai divides her time between Gisborne Girls’ High School and Campion College; and Yuning Long works at St Mary's, Makaraka and Central Schools.

Deputy Principal of Ilminster Intermediate Megan Rangiuia said the China Day allowed them to get a deeper understanding of the cultural significance of important aspects of the Chinese culture such as the fan dance, the Beijing masks, the lighting and releasing of lanterns and the positive effects of Tai Chi.

Enthusiasm for MLA

Principal of Waikirikiri Lisa Olsen-Brown said they have been very enthusiastic about having an MLA at their school this year.

“The learning provided by Bin has benefited our kaiako and learners by allowing us to explore the language, culture and values of the Chinese people.

“We are a dual medium school and have a sound understanding of our own cultural values, tikanga and language. In order for our tamariki to have empathy towards others and a true appreciation of where they come from they need to have opportunities to learn about other languages and cultures. The Mandarin language programme provides an excellent platform for our students to be able to do this.”

There are 147 MLAs working across more than 400 schools throughout New Zealand with 58 of them managed by the Confucius Institute at Victoria University. They are recruited from top Chinese universities and Ms Needham has just been selecting a new cohort for next year.

“The MLA candidates we interviewed were all very accomplished young people, but they also need to be resilient and adaptable as it is a big cultural adjustment for them once they get here,” Ms Needham said.

According to the Ministry of Education statistics, in 2016 over 52,000 primary school students were being taught Chinese, 10 times as many as in 2009, when less than 5,000 were learning Mandarin in primary school. The MLA programme, which also started at a national level in 2009, has played a significant and positive role in this growth.

Confucius Institute

Ms Needham was visiting Gisborne for the first time in her role as Director of Confucius Institute and joined Sean O’Connor from Asia New Zealand Foundation who was here to support Chinese language education in the region.

“The Asia New Zealand Foundation is all about equiping students and New Zealanders to thrive in Asia," Mr O’Connor said.

“We collaborate a lot with the Confucius Institute as obviously China is a big part of Asia. The Asia New Zealand Foundation assists schools with funding events such as China Day. It also gives teachers opportunities for personal development by running workshops throughout the year.”

Ms Needham said learning another language like Mandarin has a practical value in terms of job, travel and other opportunities, and it has also been shown to have a positive effect on children’s cognitive development.

“Our programme is focused on people-to-people contact and looking beyond stereotypes.”

The Confucius Institute at Victoria University of Wellington partners with Xiamen University in southern China. The Institute’s MLAs programme began in 2012, with three MLAs working in schools in Rotorua, Whakatane, Opotiki and Tauranga. It has increased steadily since that time and today has MLAs in over 144 schools across the lower North Island.

from: Gisborne Herald 2017.11.9

by Kim Parkinson


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