2023 Chinese Bridge school education delegation to China, jointly organised by
the Confucius Institute at Stellenbosch University (CISU) and Xiamen
University, embarked on a transformative ten-day expedition in September.
Hailing from the Cape Winelands education district, the diverse delegation (pictured
below) included the district director, Jeanette Harker, along with principals
and subject heads from Rhenish Girls’ High, Stellenbosch High, Makupula Secondary,
Worcester Gymnasium, Kylemore High as well as Rhenish, Eikestad and Rietenbosch
The delegates were hosted by the China Center for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC), which plays a key role in promoting Chinese language and culture teaching outside China. As such, the overall aim of the visit was to provide assistance to South African institutions that were willing to initiate or promote Chinese learning projects, and to establish language exchange partnerships between Chinese and South African schools.
Upon their arrival, the group was welcomed by Xiamen University's dean of Chinese International Education, Chen Zhiwei (pictured below).
Immersed in both education and culture
The visit was a blend of education and culture. Delegates had the opportunity to explore various facets of China's education system. Visits to schools such as the First Middle School of Tong'an District and the Experimental Chinese School showcased pedagogical approaches, curriculum design and classroom practices. These interactions offered valuable insight into how China's approach to education could help meet the needs and challenges faced in South African education.
The delegation also delved into the rich Chinese culture with lectures on the art and history of tea, Chinese traditional medicine, and acupuncture. Visits to iconic landmarks such as the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall complemented the experience.
Judging by delegates' feedback, the experience was transformative at all levels. According to Tertia Jefthas, Kylemore High principal, China's rich history and vibrant cultural celebrations hold valuable lessons for South Africans, emphasising the significance of instilling a sense of belonging among learners. Worcester Gymnasium deputy principal Riaan Loubscher, in turn, returned to South Africa inspired to support Mandarin education both at his school and in the broader community.
To Rika Kroon, acting principal of Rhenish Girls' High, the trip expanded her understanding of Chinese culture and highlighted the disparities between China's reality and how it is often portrayed in South Africa.
District director Harker found that the visit to the First Middle School of Tong'an District, which has 10 000 learners and 200 educators, offered important insights into teaching practices in larger classes and the beneficial use of e-learning tools. Another important takeaway from the trip, Harker says, was the importance of a balanced approach to education, with China maintaining a physical education routine of at least two hours per day, which is in line with South Africa's educational goals. In addition, she was struck by the clear expectations for different languages and dialects to coexist, which aligns with South Africa's efforts to accommodate diversity.
The delegation returned with a renewed dedication to promoting global understanding and cooperation through education.
* For more on CISU and its initiatives, go to http://www.sun.ac.za/english/confucius-institute.