Connecting with international and local communities through language

Issue: Volume 97, Number 17

Posted: 24 September 2018
Reference #: 1H9kyX

Mandarin language learning is opening up opportunities for students and staff at Tarawera High School.

In the small rural area of Kawerau, a Chinese company is establishing an industrial particle board mill. Meanwhile, at the nearby high school, students are learning Mandarin.

Tarawera High School began offering a Chinese language course about three years ago. Today, students from the school are competing in Mandarin competitions, more teachers are studying to teach the language, and a group of teachers and students have returned from a recent trip to China.

During this trip, the Chinese company which owns the industrial particle board mill, Guangxi Fenglin, invited students to visit their headquarters in Nanning, China to solidify the community’s connections back in Kawerau.

Tarawera High School Learning Pathways Coordinator and Deputy Principal Gavin Holland says although learning a second language is always a good idea, for Kawerau students learning Mandarin could be particularly useful, especially given that China is a close trade partner to New Zealand.

“In the Kawerau area there’s quite a lot of big industrial projects being built around the town at the minute, the main one being the particle board mill, which will be massive. That will obviously have quite a big impact on the town; it’ll become one of the town’s major employers,” he says.

“To have that skill would help the students get further in their careers.”

As well as seeing the usual sights, the Tarawera High School delegation visited schools, learnt about Chinese culture and taught Chinese students about Kiwi customs.

“The purpose of the trip was to immerse them all in that Mandarin experience really. Just to get out of Kawerau, for some of our students it’s quite a big deal – some hadn’t been further than Rotorua. It was quite a learning experience.”

The school was able to establish their Mandarin course with the help of a Mandarin Language Assistant (MLA), who also serves three other schools in the area and is funded by the Confucius Institute from Victoria University.

“At our school the MLA teaches Year 10 options class and he also helps out with the seniors who learn Mandarin via a video conferencing network,” says Gavin.

“Jason Chen, the MLA, takes the classes but is assisted by other teachers. One teacher, Raewyn Morgan, who was originally teaching Japanese, has upskilled herself in Mandarin. She was also one of the drivers for the China trip earlier this year.”

The school is now looking at piloting a Mandarin programme at Year 7, 8 and 9 levels.

For more information and school resources about Chinese Language Week(external link), 23–29 September.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:07 am, 24 September 2018

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts