BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education staff reporter email@example.com
TWO leading Corporate Area secondary schools — Campion College and Ardenne High — recently became the first Jamaican institutions at that level to introduce the teaching of Mandarin, the main language spoken in China.
About 150 students at Campion and 30 at Ardenne have signed up for classes in Mandarin from teachers at the Confucius Institute, located at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus.
At a launch of the programme earlier this month, principal of UWI Mona Professor Gordon Shirley said it was a very exciting opportunity for the students to learn the Chinese language and culture.
"We are extraordinarily pleased that Ardenne and Campion decided to embark on this exercise with us," Shirley told the gathering.
China's Ambassador to Jamaica Zheng Qingdian, in congratulating the CI on the establishment of the Confucius Classrooms, said the study of language was the key to understanding different nations and cultures.
"I believe it will become another successful example of cultural exchange between Jamaica and China," he said.
Commenting on the programme, CI director Dr Courtney Hogarth said it was open to all students at the two schools.
"This launch of the Chinese programme in schools is one of the things about which I am most pleased," Hogarth said of the work of the CI, which opened in 2010.
At Campion, Chinese classes will be taught in the mornings before regular school hours, while at Ardenne it will be after school, Hogarth revealed.
The high school programme brings the number of persons studying Chinese through the CI to close to 300, which includes about 50 students at UWI, other members of the university community and other private individuals.
Dr Paulette Ramsay, head of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at UWI Mona, in welcoming the Mandarin programme, noted that the study of languages was being repositioned at UWI to allow for students from all faculties the opportunity to learn a foreign language.
"It's a new thrust that has just been approved by the university that states that students in law, medicine, science, technology — all students — can now do a foreign language by substituting a foreign language for a foundation course," she explained.
New principal of Ardenne High Nadine Molloy said the programme was an opportunity for the students to expand their global outlook.
She also disclosed that three teachers at Ardenne were invited to visit China for 12 days to experience the culture there.
Looking to the future, Hogarth expects that Jamaicans will eventually become the teachers of Mandarin, with supervisors from China providing quality control in terms of teaching and pronunciation.
"I envision the day when we can start as early as prep and primary school," he told Career & Education.
Hogarth also hopes to prepare students to enter the Chinese Bridge, an international talent competition for students of Chinese that takes place in China annually.