An immersive experience in language and culture

Issue: Volume 96, Number 22

Posted: 11 December 2017
Reference #: 1H9gns

An exchange trip to China is an annual highlight for both the Auckland students and those at Yuyao Experimental School in Zhejiang who take part.

Visiting the most populous city in the world is overwhelming for anyone, but a group of Auckland students took it all in their stride when they were there for ten days in September.

14 students from Bucklands Beach Intermediate and some from neighbouring schools explored Shanghai, attended school and experienced everyday Chinese family life in the homes of fellow students, who had visited them in Auckland one month prior.

Bucklands Beach Intermediate School principal Diane Parkinson accompanied the students to China and says the experience, which happens every year, is a meaningful one.

“We have big goals for our students - we want them to be empathetic, resilient and independent learners. This trip really ticks those boxes for us,” she says.

“It’s also about providing an exciting and challenging learning experience. A homestay arrangement allows the students to fully experience a different way of life and make connections with another family.”

A longstanding connection has now been forged between the Auckland schools and Yuyao Experimental School in Zhejiang Province, which is a small international school within a much larger one with a student population of around 4,500.

“It’s a very different school day there,” explains Diane.

“Class starts at 7.30am and they’re picked up to go home at 6.30pm. During the day all the children eat lunch together in a cafeteria and our students enjoy trying the very different food!”

“They’re introduced to cultural activities like painting and knot tying, and also take part in maths, history and sport with their ‘buddy’ students.

Pigeon Mountain Primary School sent four children on the exchange this year, and principal Ian Dickinson says the trip strengthens ties with the local community. 47% of Pigeon Mountain students identify as Chinese.

“It was a huge eye opener to experience what education is like in another culture, but it’s also hugely beneficial for our teachers who accompany them,” says Ian.

“It gives the teachers a valuable insight into Chinese culture for when they come back to Howick. I think our school community appreciates that we have these strong connections.”

Like Diane, Ian says the trip reinforces the school’s values and helps realise important learning goals.

“It’s tough, especially for primary students, to be away from family for ten days, in a country where few people speak your language. So they really practice resilience, open-mindedness and responsibility for themselves,” he says.

Language learning is important, too.

Pigeon Mountain Primary is part of cluster of local schools who share a Mandarin resource teacher through the Ministry-funded ALLis programme, and all students have weekly lessons.

But it is perhaps the homestay experience that is the most meaningful.

“The ongoing connections made with families are really rich ones,” says Ian. “The generosity with which our children are welcomed in China is unsurpassed. The families go to unbelievable lengths to welcome us.”

Student voices

“I was lucky to be chosen to attend the China trip and the experience pushed me out of my comfort zone and was worth it. I will always remember the experiences I had and the memories I made.” - Liam

“Witnessing the new culture, traditions, food and the richness and poverty of the country opened my mind and gave me a new perspective on life. I learnt that I should be thankful for what I have and that I have a roof over my head and food to eat. One of my best highlights was performing the haka in front of our Chinese buddies.” - Sanjula.

“My absolute favourite part was going to the school with my homestay, because they were really kind and welcoming. A highlight of the whole excursion was the acrobatic circus, with its daring acts and all.” - Anisa.

“China was the most amazing place I had ever been to with all the lights at night the markets and stores. The big schools and Shanghai were even bigger than I could have ever imagined. It was as if I was an ant in amongst all the big buildings and all the land.” - Aidan.

“Friendships between not only the Chinese and the Kiwis, but between friends here in Aotearoa strengthened. We learned, bonded and grew. Our cultural awareness broadened and we as people, developed. Never will we ever consign to oblivion our memories from this incredible trip we were so lucky to be a part of.” - Charlotte.

Learning outcomes

Excursions like Bucklands Beach Intermediate School’s trip to China create engaging and authentic opportunities to grow resilience and confidence in young people.

The location is meaningful to these Auckland school communities. All students at Bucklands Beach and Pigeon Mountain schools learn about Chinese culture and language, and those travelling to China take part in intensive courses before the journey.

As principals Diane Parkinson and Ian Dickinson highlighted, the trip is valued by the school because it helps students practice independence and build connections to others - both in their own community and those in a new environment.

An adventure like this provides a rich opportunity to develop the key competencies identified in The
New Zealand Curriculum: thinking, using language, managing self, relating to others, and participating and contributing.”


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 11 December 2017

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