Christ King Secondary School Cork China Educational Experience

Principal Mary Keane of Christ King Secondary School, Cork, gives the following account of her educational trip to China.

"I recently had the pleasure of being invited by the UCC Confucius Institute to represent Ireland by joining the Viewing and Emulating Camp for the 3rd Chinese Bridge – Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students. This competition is organised by Hanban, the agency responsible for teacher training in China. Some 150 foreign secondary students from 35 countries took part in the competition. 

We also had one of our students, Emily Kate O’Mahony, participating in this competition. She was invited to China for three weeks. In this time she stayed with a local Chinese family and each day she went to school to prepare for the competition. All this was funded by the UCC Confucius Institute. Emily found it an amazing experience and her spoken Mandarin Chinese really improved.

Pictured on left Mary and Emily in China.

I was a member of a delegation of 16 Principals for all around the world, Canada, Unite d States, Russia, Netherlands, Portugal, Vietnam, Japan, Laos, Kazakhstan and France

From the moment I landed in Beijing Airport I was looked after very well. The trip organisers did a very professional job and struck a very good balance between giving us a flavour of the amazing 5000 year old Chinese culture and an insight into the Chinese education system.

In Beijing we were received very cordially by the Assistant Director of Hanban. It was really good to see a photograph of U.C.C. students studying Chinese in the exhibition area there. The Assistant Director answered questions on the reasons why the Confucius Institutes have grown so fast around the world and how they operate within a communist backdrop. He said that it was all part of their policy of “opening up to the world".

When we arrived in Chongqing Airport we got a very warm welcome from a group of local school children and we were presented with wonderful garlands of fresh flowers. This was very special indeed. Of course the highlights of the trip were the school visits and attending the Chinese Bridge performances.

I must say I was very impressed with our first school visit – Nankai Middle School. In this school we had a very lively debate around assessment which was chaired by Professor Zhao Yong. It appeared, from the debate, that there were similar experiences and viewpoints around this topic in many different countries. In fact this debate could have continued much longer as there was a great mixture of educators from varying different school settings and every educator has an interest in assessment.

We had a very fruitful meeting with one of the Deputy Principals who provided us with relevant information about the school. It was there we were invited to see a section of the Chinese Bridge Competition in a superb concert hall. I was very impressed with the standard of the facilities I saw in Chinese schools. But what I found more amazing was the level of proficiency of our students who were in China for just 3 weeks. The teachers had worked so hard with them in teaching them aspects of Chinese culture and language resulting in a huge improvement in both their oral and aural Chinese. It really showed us that immersion in a language has a huge benefit for the learner.

The choreography of the various musical items was very professional and the seamless integration of local school children into the performances was outstanding.

Our student, Emily Kate, herself, noticed the gap between her knowledge of spoken Chinese language and other foreign students who had many years of studying Chinese and more class work assigned in Chinese Studies per week. She in fact asked if the school could increase the time allocated to Chinese back in Ireland. 

She came up to me on the last night and spoke Chinese very naturally, telling me she had found the mobile phone she had misplaced and only changed back to English in mid-stream to say, “I forgot Miss, you do not speak Chinese!”

This is for me summed up the value of her trip.

I myself learned a lot about your education system during the day I spent in Chongqing Railway Middle School. The English teacher assigned to me was very pleasant and gave me a great flavour of how hard the teaching staff worked in China. The Principal was very hospitable and I participated in a very informative teacher forum and student forum. The students in the school were very respectful and most polite to me. I was impressed with the level of engagement in the classroom

Indeed the teacher in Chinese schools, is paid on their results and to achieve the status of Master Teacher, which is the highest paid; the teacher needs to start at 7 in the morning and regularly work to 10 at night!
Schools receive a certain amount of funding from the State and then the balance of their funding is paid to them on the results of their students in the entrance examinations into the Universities.

The final show of ‘Chinese Bridge Competition’ was very enjoyable and a credit to all involved.

From a cultural point I had great experiences, from visiting the Great Wall, to visiting the Three Gorges Museum, where I saw a tooth which dated back 2 million years!, to visiting the new university Campus in Chongqing, the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, to sampling Chinese cuisine, to having meaningful conversations with Chinese Principals, teachers and students. I absolutely enjoyed real Chinese cuisine and I have to say a week free from caffeine and eating very healthily has done me a power of good".