Chinese Culture in Cook Islands

[Source]    Confucius Institute at USP Cook Islands Campus [Time]    2017-12-05 17:02:56 

China and the Cook Islands formally established diplomatic relations in 1997. With increasingly frequent and deepened cooperation and communication between China and the South Pacific countries, the Confucius Institute, as a bridge of people-to-people and cultural exchanges, has become a new representative of Chinese language and culture in the region.

Scenery of Rarotonga, the main island of the Cook Islands

Establishment of the Confucius Classroom in the Cook Islands

The South Pacific countries are closely connected due to special cultural and customary ties, and the University of the South Pacific (USP), one of the two regional universities in the world, is very typical. The Confucius Institute at USP, co-organized by Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications opened on September 6th, 2012. Given USP’s advantages in the South Pacific region, the Confucius Classroom in Vanuatu opened in May, 2015. Witnessed by Albert Nicholas, then Minister of Internal Affairs of the Cook Islands, and others, the Confucius Classroom at the Cook Islands opened in October, 2015, meaning that Chinese culture officially started spreading in the country.

Opening Ceremony in Cook Islands

Why was the Confucius Classroom built in the Cook Islands? There are many reasons, but part of the reason is our commitment to the local people. Albert Nicholas said at the opening ceremony that the Confucius Classroom opened a new door to China, which brought them economic and trade opportunities, and would benefit their diplomacy, fishery and tourism as well as promote the friendship and connections between China and the Cook Islands.

A local newspaper published a report with the headline of USP opens new door to China. This door welcomes the warmth from China.

Chinese Language Teaching Back on Track

The Confucius Institute in the Cook Islands sees its second anniversary in 2017. During its growth, this newborn baby in the family of Chinese language teaching and cultural exchanges has experienced a lot.

The first government-sponsored teacher and the only staff of the Confucius Classroom, Wang Xiaoshi, from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, arrived in the Cook Islands with a brave spirit in September 2015. Nevertheless, she felt the difficulties although there were visits and arrangements of the teachers’ sent in advance.

Fortunately, the Confucius Classroom was back on track gradually under the coordination of USP and its Confucius Institute. The enrollment of social class and college credit courses started to grow, and pilot courses were also given in some primary schools. Students came to learn Chinese with many different reasons, yet their common aspirations kindled Wang Xiaoshi’ enthusiasm. She visited each class on the island every day as a “superwoman”.

Paper-cutting class in the Confucius Classroom in the Cook Islands

With the upgrade of courses and the increasing number of students, the one-teacher Confucius Classroom welcomed Li Hongfei, the first Chinese volunteer teacher, in 2017. Before his arrival, he learnt the overview of the Confucius Classroom from Wang Xiaoshi that there are not many students in each class, but a considerable number of courses, most of which are scheduled at night. Sometimes the teacher need to adjust or make-up courses based on the students’ time and individuality.

Volunteer Li Hongfei teaching in the classroom

With more knowledge of and deeper engagement in the Cook Islands, the two teachers have gradually become accustomed to the lifestyle and learning habit of the local people. When it came to the number of students, they said proudly: “The total population of the Cook Islands is only slightly over 10,000, and the number of people who learn Chinese in each semester accounts for 1% of the total population. In this sense, which country can reach such a high ratio of Chinese language teaching and learning such as ours?”

All Circles from China and Cook Islands Support Development of Confucius Classroom

Rod Dixon, Director of the USP Cook Islands Campus, is in considerable support of the Confucius Classroom, providing not only a comfortable working environment for teachers but also strong support for the cultural activities in the class.

In May 2017, the Confucius Classroom was going to hold a cultural event called “Chinese Film Day”. Dixon said that the largest classroom in the campus could be used as the venue for the event, and provided equipment as well. Campus staff also came to help arrange the venue.

The “Chinese Film Day” gained an unexpected success, with over 150 people participating in the event. Dixon said happily that the number of participants exceeded that of any previous campus event. At the end of the film, the participants applauded spontaneously to show their gratitude to the teachers and staff. The two Chinese teachers were very satisfied and more aware of their responsibility.

Scene of “Chinese Film Day”

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Cook Islands. In July, Du Qiwen, Special Envoy for China-Pacific Islands Forum Dialogue, and Wang Lutong, then Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Niue, led a delegation to visit the Cook Islands and attended the seminars held at the USP Cook Islands Campus and the Confucius Classroom. After the seminars, they visited the Confucius Classroom. Special Envoy Du Qiwen told volunteer teacher Li Hongfei who was in charge of reception: “This is the second time for me to visit your classroom, and thank you for working here.”

Du Qiwen, Wang Lutong and others watching Chinese song performance by primary school students

Du Qiwen and his delegation taking a group photo with teachers and students

At the dinner commemorating the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Cook Islands, Prime Minister Henry Puna of the Cook Islands expressed his gratitude to teachers of the Confucius Classroom and his hope that it can continue to serve as a bond of friendship and exchange and strengthen the friendly relations between the two countries.

With the support and help of all parties, the Ministry of Education of the Cook Islands was formally authorized in 2017 by the Ministry of Education of New Zealand to use New Zealand NCEA in Chinese language teaching in middle schools in the Cook Islands. In 2018, the Confucius Classroom will hold the First “Chinese Bridge” Competition for Secondary School Students in the Cook Islands.

With learners ranging from adults to middle school students, Chinese language and culture will go deeper into the future of the local people. As a bond of people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and the Cook Islands, the Confucius Classroom in the country will continue to provide Chinese language teaching to the local people and hold colorful Chinese cultural activities to make more Chinese language flowers flourish there.


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