Technology brings China to class

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
Year 3 students at a Mandarin language class.
Camera IconYear 3 students at a Mandarin language class. Credit: Tamra Carr

Students at St Francis Xavier Primary School are learning Mandarin from a teacher that is not actually present in the classroom.

The My Chinese Teacher program provides culture and language lessons to students using video conferencing technology, similar to Skype.

Students in Geraldton watch a teacher from Beijing appear in real time on an interactive whiteboard.

Students ask the teacher questions, learn Mandarin and study Chinese culture.

Year 2 teacher Theresa Wells said it was the school’s way of addressing the Education Department’s new rule that foreign language lessons must be taught to all Year 3 students in both public and private schools.

She said the initiative was a first for the school.

My Chinese Teacher co-founder and director Tom Shugg said Mandarin was the most beneficial language to learn.

“It makes the most strategic sense to learn Mandarin more than any other language because of Chinese trade and immigration,” he said. “There’s a bilateral relationship between Australia and China, all roads lead there.

“There’s a huge amount of benefit that comes from letting children communicate with a native speaker who is on the ground in Beijing.

“It provides authenticity, motivation and enthusiasm, especially when a teacher holds their laptop up to a window and the students can see the streets of Beijing in real time.

“It sets a light bulb off in their head and shows them China is a real place that’s very different, yet very similar.”

Mr Shugg said video conferencing would never replace the need for physical teachers in a classroom, but rather close the gap in access to language learning.

St Francis Xavier Primary School is the only school in Geraldton using the program and all 470 students are learning Mandarin.

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