“From the moment we landed in Beijing the organisation was top class, and the overall experience unforgettable”- this was how the five secondary school principals described their trip to China this summer, organised through the UCD Confucius Institute and Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing.
Pic 1: At the Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing were (L to R): Angela McGarvey (Principal, Loreto Cavan), David O’ Connell (Principal, Ballinteer Community School), Natuca Cordon (Principal, Teresian School), Ms. Zhang Huan (Program Officer, Division of New Initiatives and International Exchanges, Confucius Institute HQ), Peter Gallagher (Principal, St. Conleth’s College), Veronica O’ Brien (Principal, St. Louis, Monaghan), James Kenny (Assistant Director, UCD CII)
This trip was organised under the ‘Chinese Bridge’ project, promoting links between schools in China and schools all around the world with Confucius Institute Chinese Studies programmes. There was a strong emphasis on learning from each other about the different education systems in the two countries, and the different styles of learning in class. The Chinese schools visited all expressed particular interest in the Transition Year modules in Irish schools, while the Irish principals were very curious about school and class sizes, moral education, timetables and the working hours of their counterparts in Chinese schools.
The five principals represented an excellent cross section of secondary schools in Ireland- fee-paying and non-fee-paying; urban and rural; male, female and mixed; various different management structures/governing bodies etc.
The delegation visited the Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing, where they loved the interactive cultural displays. These were followed by a hugely informative introduction to the Chinese education system given by Prof. Kan Wei from Beijing Normal University, which prompted a lively two-way discussion on various details of both the Chinese and Irish education systems.
What really counts is what goes on in the schools though, and for this the delegation travelled to the nearby city of Tianjin. There, they visited 3 secondary schools, or high schools, as they are known locally. The principals were greeted with great warmth and enthusiasm by their Chinese hosts in each of the schools visited, and they marvelled at the scale of the buildings and numbers involved, the schools having between 2,000 and 2,500 students each. The Irish delegation particularly enjoyed observing the Chinese students in class, and took advantage of every chance to chat with the students about their studies.
Of course, no trip to China would be complete without experiencing the culture of this ancient civilisation, and the delegation took in such sights as The Great Wall, The Summer Palace, The Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, The Forbidden City and more, and feasted on many of the various regional cuisines China has to offer.
The UCD Confucius Institute will continue to organise these trips each year, amid the growing demand for Chinese Studies in Irish secondary schools and the need for closer partnerships and exchanges between Irish and Chinese educational institutions.