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Chinese day at Saint Mary’s School

Students at St Mary’s School experienced Chinese culture as part of a special Discover China Day this week.

Making dumplings and learning to write Chinese characters or Shufa was all part of the experience.

It was the initiative of the school’s Mandarin language assistant (MLA) Meixia Liu and principal Judy Leydon.

St Mary’s School has one MLA assigned to it and Ms Liu was joined by Zixia Zeng and Bingyu Shi, who are also teaching Mandarin in Gisborne, said teacher Allie Naden.

Ms Liu teaches Mandarin to the senior classes at St Mary’s every Monday and includes cultural activities such as calligraphy, tai chi, Chinese legends and making Chinese lanterns.

“The Discover China Day was her idea to let the students experience part of her culture,” says Ms Naden.

They also learned to do the jasmine fan flower dance and tai chi fan, and the day ended with a performance in the afternoon.

There are three Mandarin language assistants (MLAs) working in Gisborne schools as part of the Chinese language programme. The programme aims to increase opportunities for New Zealand students to learn Chinese and experience Chinese culture.

The Gisborne cohort of MLAs are all Masters students, many with degrees in teaching Chinese as a second language, who are getting practical teaching experience here in New Zealand.

They are carefully selected by the Confucius Institute at Victoria University which works closely with the schools and communities that host them. There are 147 MLAs working across more than 400 schools throughout New Zealand.

Ministry of Education statistics show that in 2016 more than 52,000 primary school students were being taught Mandarin, up from 33,000 in 2015 and 10 times as many as in 2009.

The MLA programme started at a national level in 2009 and has played a significant and positive role in this growth.

The Confucius Institute at Victoria University of Wellington partners with Xiamen University in southern China, and the institute’s MLAs programme began in 2012, with three MLAs working in schools in Rotorua, Whakatane, Opotiki and Tauranga.

It has increased steadily since that time and today has MLAs in more than 144 schools across the lower North Island.

Chinese Days help foster future global citizens by engaging students in cultural activities.

DISCOVER CHINA DAY: Bingyu Shi teaches Shufa, or Chinese calligraphy, to students (from left) Maria Atkins, Venetia Deedman, Ben Lister and Alexander Holmes. Pictures by Liam Clayton
Sophie Li (left) joins Bjorn Raroa-Haraki, Amanda Cronwright and teacher Zixia Zeng in the school kitchen where they prepare delicious pork, garlic and ginger dumplings.