Trip brings Chinese culture home

ROSE CAWLEY
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012
Joan Middlemiss
Simon Smith
BREAKING PREJUDICES: Mission Heights Junior College principal Joan Middlemiss is taking measures to bring Chinese culture and Mandarin language into the school after a educational trip to China. The calligraphy done by Professor Ye Peigui says, ‘‘spring wind changes to rain’’.

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The East meets the West with new vigour after a principal's educational trip.

Just under a quarter of the 650 students at Mission Heights Junior College are Chinese.

So principal Joan Middlemiss jumped at the opportunity to visit China when an opportunity arose through the Confucius Institute at Auckland University.

"We have a lot of Chinese students so it enabled me to have a better understanding of the culture from which they have come and the education system which they would be familiar with."

She says the view of China she had before the trip has been completely stripped away and replaced with the modern future powerhouse.

"I grew up with a vision of the workers, of the Chinese workers, and the Communist Party and that sort of thing where wealth wasn't the goal. It totally blew away some of my preconceptions of what China was like, I just had these completely outdated visions."

She says it empowered her with knowledge and an understanding of how to support Chinese students within the New Zealand education system.

"‘It really was an eye-opener. I expected the education to be quite traditional but I saw the whole range from repetitive chanting right through to modern group work with the latest technologies."

She says the trip enforced the importance of children maintaining or even gaining an understanding of the Mandarin language.

"We have to look to Asia as an economic powerhouse so our children have to be ready to work in that scenario, ready to communicate and understand their culture.

"The people who will make things happen in the future will be the connectors, the people who have a comfort in both the East and the West with cultural knowledge and language."

Mission Heights Junior College currently has a Mandarin teacher who teaches after school and in the personalised learning programmes.

"But I want to find a way for the children to be able to better pursue their Mandarin language in school."

Mrs Middlemiss says she is talking with Mission Heights Primary and Ormiston Senior College about applying for a Mandarin teaching assistant to serve the three schools.

"That way the children would be able to have that specialist person to work with them and help their learning."

After the trip Mrs Middlemiss arranged for well-known Chinese calligrapher Professor Ye Peigui to visit the school. She says she will continue to look for similar activities to broaden the school's cultural understanding of China.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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