Schools build link to Chinese enterprise

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By 2014, Chinese Mandarin could be a language option at Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College to offer students more international opportunities.

The two Oamaru high schools are embracing the emerging business and trade market, after a recent 10-day trip to China.

Waitaki Boys’ High School rector Paul Jackson and St Kevin’s College principal Paul Olsen were invited by the Confucius Institute to get a greater understanding of the Chinese culture and the Mandarin language. “A number of New Zealand principals were approached to see how they could facilitate Mandarin, in response to the increased trade links. We wanted to make sure our students are well prepared to take advantage of the economic benefits,” Mr Olsen said.

“North Otago has quite a few niche industries and being able to move into that market you need to know the culture and the language.

“They are signalling that there are plenty of business opportunities there and we just want to make sure that our students get them.”

There would be mutual benefits, they said, being supported by the Confucius Institute while the students gain a greater understanding of the language and culture.

This particular trip, for the two North Otago principals, focused on the Chinese region of Wuhan.

They were looking at entering a relationship with Chinese schools that would allow them to offer Mandarin and access different resources to facilitate the process.

As well as visiting schools in China, Mr Olsen and Mr Jackson also visited Chinese landmarks including Tiananmen Square and The Great Wall.

Before being approached by the institute, both principals were conscious of introducing diversity into the languages offered.

French and Te Reo Maori are currently offered at St Kevin’s College, while Waitaki Boys’ High School are introducing Te Reo in 2014.

“To have the help and support from someone else to bring in another language, we’re very welcome to take that,” Mr Jackson said.

“It was very obvious when we were over there how beneficial it would be, in marketing, to be able to speak Mandarin.”

Waitaki Boys’ High School currently gets exchange students from Hong Kong, but neither of the schools have Chinese students.

The links with the Confucius Institute could also bring more exchange opportunities.

“There are opportunities for us to look at, but the main focus is the development of language,” Mr Jackson said.

A number of students from both schools had expressed a keen interest in learning Mandarin and three Waitaki Boys’ High School students will travel to China next month for a two-week trip to be immersed in the language.

“They are really looking forward to it,” Mr Jackson said.

Students from both schools will have the opportunity to take part in that summer camp each year.

Both principals said the trip was “highly successful” and the future of the relationship with the Confucius Institute was very exciting.

“It’ll be a popular decision to offer this, at least as an introductory course,” Mr Jackson said.

The institute will send a Mandarin teacher to Oamaru, most likely to be shared between Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College.

They would be a “highly qualified” Mandarin teacher who, at the same time, would be able to improve their English and gain a better understanding of the New Zealand culture.

There is also the opportunity for video learning between Oamaru and China.

“They’re looking for a commitment from us because they are putting in a lot of money but I think it’s a commitment well worth it. It’s the future,” Mr Jackson said.

The next step is pulling it all together.

“It’s an emerging opportunity and it’s something we’d like to share with the community because the possibilities are not just economic,” Mr Olsen said.

“A number of North Island schools are already well down the path, but it is a new path for North Otago.”

By Rebecca Ryan