Students learn a taste of Asia

By Lei Shi

More Tauranga schools are bringing Mandarin Chinese into their classrooms.

Oropi School offers all its 170 pupils one 45-minute Mandarin language class a week, 28 weeks a year.

Principal Andrew King said the Mandarin programme was part of an ongoing initiative supported by the school to raise awareness of Asia and had been a success with the children.

"Last year we had a trial to bring a teacher from Tauranga Girls' College to teach Mandarin to Year 7 and 8, and that worked extremely well. This year the school board is really keen on the idea of having Mandarin in school, from 5-year-old right to 13-year-old."

Mr King said as a rural school with the majority of the pupils of European descent, it was a great language and cultural learning experience for the kids.

"It's great to see many of these young ones pick up the language so quickly."

Vivien Ting is a teacher from Tauranga Girls' College and she also teaches Mandarin at a few other schools in Tauranga.

"We came up with this idea of having one Mandarin teacher for more than one school, because the interest we get from any single school is not enough to employ a teacher. I come to Oropi School once a week and I also teach a smaller class at Greenpark Primary School."

Mr King said he knew many schools did not have funding for such a programme and Oropi received a grant from the Asia New Zealand Foundation this year to help fund its Mandarin lessons.

"There is a Ministry of Education resource but that's not enough. If the Government is really serious about Asia awareness in schools, through operation grants they need to provision for that. We need also to think about once these kids leave for high school, how they can continue that momentum of what they have started here?"

Ms Ting said Tauranga Intermediate School had been offering Mandarin for a long time but the lessons were not available to all students.

"Also in the case of Greenpark School, students still have to pay some money because the lessons were only subsidised. Gate Pa School had Mandarin for only one term. Some schools say they can't afford and some simply don't know about our programme."

Ms Ting said she wanted more schools to take part in the programme.

Quick facts

  • 13,161 New Zealand primary students learned Chinese in 2012, compared with 2849 New Zealand secondary students learning Chinese.

  • 354,552 people in New Zealand identified themselves as Asian in the 2006 Census.

  • The city of Yantai has been Tauranga's sister city for nearly three decades.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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