‘Fantastic time’ in China

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A 12-day trip to China as part of a principals’ delegation was an overwhelming success, says Waitaki Girls’ High School principal Tracy Walker.

Thirteen principals from South Island primary and secondary schools went on the trip, with Waimate High School principal Janette Packman also part of the touring party.

Mrs Walker said the trip was fulfilling and interesting.

“The trip was an amazing and wonderful experience, both personally and professionally.

“There were thirteen principals and senior leaders from a range of South Island primary and secondary schools on the delegation, so it was a great opportunity to network with them.”

As part of the trip, they spent three days in Beijing, where they were welcomed by the Confucian Society – who had sponsored the trip – and received a presentation from the Chinese education ministry.

“We visited the Olympic village, the Forbidden City and walked part of the Great Wall of China,” she said.

The group then flew to Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province in central China, where they had the chance to mingle with local school pupils, visiting four schools and two universities. The principals spoke to Chinese teachers, principals and other educational professionals.

“They are also seeking to remove some of the ultra-competitive aspects from their system as they recognise the stress this puts on students and families. However we saw classes operating at 4.30pm on a Saturday afternoon, which would be unheard of here. With a population of 1.3 billion, it still remains a very competitive system and families focus strongly on academic achievement above extracurricular activities such as sport.”

“A highlight of the trip for me was visiting rural schools in the Xiaogan region. This visit left a big impression on me as the students, who came from very humble neighbourhoods, were all so welcoming and friendly and interested in the foreigners.

“The classrooms usually had between 40 and 50 desks in rows and the students were very enthusiastic and keen to engage with us to improve their English.”

“I was fortunate to visit the classroom being taught by the language specialist and I was impressed with her ability to engage the students and involve them in the lesson,” Mrs Walker said.

While a particular relationship with a specific school hasn’t been formed, the parties exchanged card and contact details in the hope closer ties could be developed in the future.

In July, Waitaki Girls’ High School will host a Mandarin language assistant from China, who will teach Mandarin Chinese language and culture.

Mrs Walker believes the Waitaki Girls’ pupils will enjoy learning the language and benefit from it.

“As a school we have traditionally offered up to three languages and, given that China is our biggest trading partner, it makes sense to give our students the option to become familiar with Chinese language and culture.”

“North Otago also has a strong history of Chinese immigration and influence.

“And our school vision is, ‘To teach you, I must know you’, so I found the trip vital in increasing my knowledge and understanding of both the history and culture of China and contemporary Chinese society.

“This will assist us in teaching both local Chinese students and international students.

“Along the way I had a fantastic time and experienced Chinese hospitality, banquets and culture,” she said.

By Brayden Lindsay

PHOTO: SUPPLIED – Tracy Walker (front row centre) and Janette Packman (front row right) along with the teachers delegate prepare to sing a waiata to pupils from a Xiaogan School.