By: Katee Shanks
Kawerau’s Tarawera High School will be offering Mandarin as a subject choice for the third year in 2018.
Students also have the option of learning Maori, French and Japanese.
But not every school in New Zealand offers a second language, prompting a draft bill released for public consultation yesterday by National Party education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye.
Kaye said the benefit of speaking more than one language had enormous cognitive, cultural, social and economic benefits.
“My member’s bill is about ensuring all children in Years 1 to 8 have universal access and resources to a second language.
“The bill requires the Education Minister to set at least 10 priority languages for schools and places a requirement on the Crown to resource the provision of them.”
She said she expected the languages that would be consulted on would include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and possibly Hindi.
“However the bill makes it clear te reo and New Zealand sign language must be national priority languages and funded by the Crown.”
Tarawera High School principal Helen Tuhoro said the school was part of Victoria University’s Confucius Institute which provided a Mandarin language assistant to teach within the campus.
“We also gift some of our teaching hours to Kawerau’s primary schools,” Tuhoro said.
The language is already proving relevant within the town because a Chinese company has expressed its desire to build a particle mill in Kawerau.
“Our Mandarin students met with mayor Malcolm Campbell and the visiting Chinese mill delegation when they were here last year and were able to help with interpretation.
“When this mill goes ahead there will be Mandarin-speaking families, including children, come to live in Kawerau so to have our kids be able to talk to them is huge.”
Tuhoro said the class had also been fundraising in preparation for a trip to China this year – the first overseas trip for the five-year-old school.
“They only had to come up with the cost of their flights and some spending money because, the moment we set foot in the country, everything is paid for by the Confucius Institute. In addition, the particle-board company are financially backing a further three days on our trip so we can go and visit the mill they operate in China.
“Language is so important for the diversity of New Zealand communities and, in our case, has the potential for our students to find employment.”
Tuhoro said the school’s Maori-speaking students were able to pick up Mandarin quickly.
“There are similarities and our Maori-speaking students have an ear for what they are learning.”
Rotorua’s Otonga Rd Primary School principal, Linda Woon, said te reo was taught at the school from Year 1 and Chinese from Year 3.
“From memory we have been offering Chinese as a language for the past 17 years,” Woon said.
“We are helped very much by the Confucius Institute which allows us a Mandarin assistant each year.”
She credited the work of Laytee George in being instrumental in Chinese languages being taught in Rotorua.
“So much so that Rotorua has more students per head of population learning Chinese than in any other place in New Zealand.”
Woon also made mention of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Koutu, a bilingual kura where students learned Maori and Spanish.
Source: Rotorua Daily Post