For the majority of parents, our morning school drop offs, the hi and bye with our class parents, the quick catch-up with the teachers as we wave goodbye to our little ones, the reading of the school notices, are things we never think about.
For parents new to New Zealand however, these tasks can be a mammoth endeavour that language and cultural barriers make almost impossible to achieve.
A group of Chinese parents is aiming to change this for their community. Shane Zhan, a father of three and resident in Auckland for over 30 years, has set up an online community “新西兰育儿教育交流群” or “New Zealand School Parents Community” for Chinese speaking parents in the Chinese Social media platform – Wechat.
“I am lucky to be in a position where understanding school newsletters and accessing news and information about education and health is easy. However, many of my Chinese parent peers do not,” says Shane.
“They have little-to-no understanding of how the schooling and early childhood system works; what NCEA is or Cambridge; that there is the existence of educational and support resources from the Ministry of Education such as incredible years, and S.K.I.P resources.”
It was a set of recent encounters that really highlighted the severity of the problem and prompted the idea to do something about this, Shane recalls
“I recently spoke to some parents who were taken aback by the current measles epidemic, and one was shocked to learn that early childhood centres are not mandated to announce to all parents if they had children who are not immunised.
“These were parents who could speak basic English, so imagine the depth of the problem for those who had no English abilities,” says Shane.
One of the problems is the language and culture. Without fluency in English, it is very hard for parents to stay on top of news and current events, especially in our digital age where everything is based on social media. Very few younger generation Chinese read the Chinese newspapers or listen to the Chinese TV or radio stations.
Then there are the cultural and social aspects.
“Chinese parents are terrified of upsetting teachers and having their child ostracized by the teacher. So it is very rare for Chinese parents to raise concerns with their teachers because in their experience, you do not want to upset the teachers and cause disadvantages to your child,” says Shane.
This can mean that even for innocuous things, such as not understanding something, parents will nod along and act like they do to prevent adding ‘trouble’ and causing a burden to the teacher. When it comes to more serious issues, this aversion is compounded and magnified – often to the detriment of the child.
Shane gives the example of a parent he once knew who had an eight-year-old girl who was being picked on by others in the school.
“We encouraged her to talk to the teacher and dean of the school. However, the parents had very little English and was terrified that she would get a black mark against her name – so she did nothing. Things escalated to the point where the child refused to go to school. It was only then, and with support of another English-speaking Chinese parent that the mum agreed to talk to the teacher to help her child with this problem.”
Shane and the other parents in the group hope to solve these three problems for the Chinese parents with the Wechat community where parents can share information, create socialisation and friendship opportunities for the children, seek help, ask questions and ultimately help those parents and their children integrate better into New Zealand.
“We would be really grateful if schools can jump on board to help us help the parents and children in your school.” says Shane.
If any schools are interested in helping, please spread word among your Chinese parents and post the following message in your newsletter or on your bulletin boards:
New Zealand School Parents Community
This group aims to provide a platform for parents to share parenting and children education and experiences and suggestions. We encourage everyone to setup play dates and social.
I have found that many of our Chinese parents don’t really understand New Zealand’s education system. The only way for many parents to get knowledge was to ask friends who themselves may not know. Therefore, I built this group and hoped that we can share information and find answers to questions about primary and secondary education in New Zealand.
Parents of children in early education are also welcome.
Please do not advertise in the group.
To join, please scan my QR code and I will pull you into the group.
My QR code: