Tauranga Intermediate School opened the doors to its Confucius classroom, yesterday.

The room would be dedicated to learning Mandarin as well as the history and culture of the country.

There were only 14 Confucius classrooms in New Zealand and the classroom at Tauranga Intermediate was the first in the city.

There were 347 Confucius classrooms worldwide.


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All students at Tauranga Intermediate School would have the opportunity to take part.

The school already had two Mandarin language assistants who were graduate students from Chinese universities.

The classroom was opened by Tauranga Intermediate principal Brian Diver, chairman of the Confucius Institute Tony Browne, Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby and other dignitaries.

The project was funded by Hanban - the Chinese Ministry of Education.

Mr Diver said he introduced Chinese language programmes to the school about 20 years ago - seeing the value in the most widely spoken language in the world. "The then-Minister of Education, Lockwood Smith, said it was important for schools to introduce Chinese language, so we did back then and have had it ever since."

Planning for the classroom took more than 18 months, with an application to the Confucius Institute at Victoria University, with former assistant principal Jenny Clark taking the reins on the project, he said.

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The school hosted students from partner schools in China, with a group of students from the school heading to Yantai, China next week with delegates from Tauranga City Council, he said.

Confucius Institute chairman Tony Browne said:

"Increasingly we talk about New Zealand culture - but now that includes people from China. What we are establishing through this classroom is a bridge from Tauranga and China."

Mandarin message:

* The Confucius Institute at Victoria University is dedicated to promoting artistic, cultural and intellectual exchange between China and New Zealand. Through CI VUW's education programme, Mandarin language assistants from China, who are top university graduates, are selected and placed into New Zealand schools to support the development and teaching of Chinese language classes.