Chinese teacher visits Central School

China is one of the world’s leading economic powers, and interaction with China is an important part of New Zealand’s present and future. There is a growing desire amongst New Zealanders to learn more about the world’s second largest country.  Taranaki schools are embracing ways for students to learn about Chinese language a culture.

Study Taranaki was fortunate enough to be introduced to one of these teachers, Shaobo Wang, an AFS volunteer teacher at Central School in New Plymouth. Shaobo is in Taranaki for a month from QiQihar, in northern China. QiQihar’s wider city area has over 5.3 Million people, more than the population for New Zealand.

It is Shaobo’s overseas visit. Travelling to New Plymouth took Shaobo nearly two days, QiQihar is 10 hours by high speed train to Beijing and then a 3 hour connect to Hong Kong, a 10 hour flight to Auckland and then a 40 minute flight to New Plymouth. 

Shaobo is retired but taught English and Chinese in primary schools around QiQihar throughout her career. She learnt English at teachers college, mostly through books and movies, but has found being in an English speaking environment quite different. The New Zealand accent takes some time to understand and New Zealanders speak so fast!

School is very different in China too.  In Qiqihar, school of 400 would be considered small and most primary schools have around 1000 students and are on multi-level sites.  Classes are bigger too with 40 to 60 students in each class and the school day is longer. Primary school students are in school rom 7am until 5pm. Furthermore, many children take extra English lessons outside of school at the weekend or in the evening. Students sit in formal desks in rows with their hands folded in front of them and take notes while the teacher talks. Shaobo is learning about the New Zealand style of teaching, which is less formal and more interactive and where children move around the classroom and sit in a circle to do much of their learning.

Shaobo came to New Zealand because she feels that it is important that other cultures understand each other and that learning a second language is a great skill to have.   Central School’s Assistant Principal, Charlaine Spencer says that having a Mandarin teacher at school has been wonderful for the children, who have enjoyed learning some phrases and learning about China.  Charlaine recommends that Taranaki schools get involved with a programme like the AFS teacher exchange, and that Central would certainly have another teacher if the need arose.

Study Taranaki’s Rachael Berndt notes, “Shabo is a great ambassador for China and she’s really got the children excited about learning Mandarin. I have a long term vision of students from Taranaki visiting schools in China.  Learning language skills in primary school would help those students during a visit and later on in their careers.”
Schools wanting to know more about AFS can talk to Pure Elwood at AFS on prue.elwood@afs.org.