Mandarin Chinese and IT might seem like an unusual combination, but for Kahutara pupils they are the tools of the future.

Kahutara School has acquired the services of a Mandarin language assistant as well as an IT expert, in the guise of parent and IT journalist Alex Cruickshank.

All the pupils are receiving Mandarin lessons and the 8- to 10-year-olds are being given training in basic computer logic and programming.

Principal Clare Crawford said both programmes gave pupils skills that could benefit them in the future.


"We've got to give them tools to go in any direction that they choose."

It is the second year Kahutara has had a language assistant provided by the Confucius Institute, a resource the school is sharing with other primary schools in the area.

Offering a language for Year 7 and 8 pupils was a compulsory part of the curriculum, but a language assistant was a great resource for the teachers as well as the pupils, Mrs Crawford said.

"The school either has to pay for an expert to come in or the school has to do it themselves, so this is an incredible way for the teacher to get professional development."

She was amazed by how quickly the children, especially the younger pupils, grasped the language.

Older pupils are receiving weekly lessons on how to use a basic programming tool.

The software, called Scratch, allows children to program and share interactive media such as stories, games and animation.

IT tutor Alex Cruickshank said it was important for the next generation to understand not just how to use computers, but how they worked.

"I want them to not just use them but understand how they are controlled and to give them logic of how any type of computer works."

Some children picked up the ideas and ran with them, with one boy even creating a simple computer game over the weekend, Mr Cruickshank said.

"It's just rewarding seeing them starting to get something and then going on and creating."