With an increase in Chinese visitors and immigrants to Timaru, some high schools are planning to offer Mandarin classes to their students.
Timaru Girls' High School has a Mandarin learning assistant starting in a few months. Currently the school offers French, German and te reo Maori. Principal Sarah Davis said she was open to other principals taking up the opportunity for their students to learn Mandarin as well.
A visit from the Chinese Embassy to TGHS last year revealed an active interest in South Canterbury because of its tourism and dairy industry, she said.
"The Chinese see South Canterbury as a strategic place and want to build relationships," Davis said.
Through the Confucius Institute in Auckland, Davis visited China with other principals in April. The institute promotes Mandarin and has been instrumental in helping to organise the learning assistant's appointment.
Roncalli College principal Chris Comeau said his students studied French and Maori with TGHS, and one was learning Mandarin. He said it was a big commitment to take on a language teacher but he was interested in working with TGHS as he saw Asian languages as being important for the future.
Mountainview High School used to offer Japanese and French classes but when the language teachers left, replacements could not be found. Students are now left with a choice of Maori or Spanish. Twelve year 11 to year 13 students are learning Maori and 10 are learning Spanish this year.
Principal Mark Jones said he was not aware of a demand for other languages but "everything is up for review".
"All language benefits [students] and broadens their horizons. It helps them understand how language is constructed and has a knock-on effect on their own language," Jones said.
The revised curriculum in 2010 recognised the value of language, he said.
Craighead Diocesan School and Timaru Boys' High School students can learn French and German.
Boys' High deputy rector Ross Stevenson said languages were a shrinking area across the whole country. Senior students learning French joined with TGHS to share resources. He said if there was a demand for other languages they would be considered.
In the 2013 census, those who identified as Asian in South Canterbury numbered 1356, compared with 792 in 2006.
- The Timaru Herald