Students get a taste for the orient with Chinese classes

East Cork is getting a flavour of the Far East as students are becoming proficient in Chinese.

Midleton College is one of dozens of schools introducing teenagers to the language of a country expected to increase its importance in Irish and global growth.

Although plans to make Chinese a Leaving Certificate subject are only in their infancy, work is beginning on an optional short course to be part of the overhauled Junior Certificate for students starting second-level education in 2014.

Billy McCarthy, a fifth-year student at Midleton College, was one of a number from the school at an event last week showcasing Chinese culture and language studies in 22 schools.

“It’s fairly complicated but I like the language. It’s all about how you approach the subject,” he said.

He is taking it as an after-school class after joining the transition-year class offered last year by the country’s first Chinese teacher-in-residence Shan Wu from Beijing.

“Chinese has a reputation of being hard, but once students get the basic phonetics it’s not that difficult. We try to make it fun by incorporating calligraphy, paper-cutting and cooking,” she said.

Some of those crafts were on display at the event attended by the 22 schools already teaching Chinese, including students from schools in Douglas, Mallow and Mayfield.

Anne Looney, chief executive of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, which is developing the Junior Cert short course, said: “It’s often led by student and parental interest, as there’s increasing recognition that Chinese is important for cultural, social and business relations.”

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said he intends to have the subject available as a Leaving Certificate option soon.


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