University welcomes hundreds of school pupils for Chinese extravaganza

Hundreds of school pupils from across Scotland will descend on the University of Aberdeen for a celebration of Chinese culture and language on Friday (June 20).

The University and the Confucius Institute of the University of Aberdeen will host the Scotland China Education Network (SCEN) National Pupil Conference. It is the first time a University has hosted the event and Aberdeen will welcome more than 260 pupils from 34 schools, ranging from nursery to S6, plus over a hundred more teachers, head teachers, politicians, business and educational leaders.

Pupils from schools in Aberdeen city, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Moray and Perth and Kinross will give presentations on different aspects of Chinese language and culture – and most will be delivered in Mandarin.

Following the presentations the Confucius Institute staff and volunteers will conduct a series of workshops where pupils of all ages can take part in activities including calligraphy, tai-chi, cake decorating, kite making, the Chinese tea ceremony, Chinese language and number games and painting a dragon.

Professor Barbara Fennell, Dean of Chinese Affairs and Director of the Confucius Institute of the University of Aberdeen said the Scotland China Education Network is an inspiring and ground-breaking organisation that promotes Chinese language teaching throughout Scotland.

“The University of Aberdeen is delighted to be associated with SCEN and to host this important event which gives pupils a chance to shine, and to learn from and encourage one another,” she added.

“The conference makes an important contribution to the University’s public outreach programme and, since it opened last year, the Confucius Institute has taught Chinese to over 240 children and adults from the wider community and undertaken a successful schools programme, helping to teach about Chinese language and culture and give pupils and adults a chance to meet Chinese experts.   

“We are excited to be able to welcome so many pupils, teachers, parents and education representatives to our own campus to further develop these relationships and provide a platform for them to showcase their new language skills.

“There are so many highlights to look forward to, from a primary five pupil performing a Chinese solo, to Frockheim Primary pupils sharing what they have learned about comparisons between Scotland and China and students from Arngask Primary in Perthshire acting out a play for the day.

“We will also see that ‘Aberdeen’s Got Talent’ when pupils from Hazelhead and Old Machar academies and Danestone, Greenbrae, Middleton Park, St Peter’s, Forehill and Glashieburn primary schools demonstrate Chinese singing and dancing.”

The day will open and close with a Scottish tradition as the Aboyne Academy Pipe Band perform and those attending will be encouraged to write about what they have learned for the day with the help of pupils from Elgin Academy.

Professor Fennell added: “The importance of learning other languages has been recognised in Scotland’s ‘one plus two’ language plan according to which Scottish pupils will gain experience of two foreign languages in addition to their home language.

“Academics from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Education, led by Professor Do Coyle, are involved in research and teaching in this area and Prof Coyle herself will also contribute to a discussion, chaired by Professor Fennell, on how to develop competence in Chinese language and culture from pre-school into the world of work and through life-long learning.

“The learning of Mandarin has been taken up enthusiastically by schools across Scotland and the Confucius Institute is helping to support that learning through a variety of activities within the Confucius Institute, in schools and businesses, and on campus.

“The connection between Scotland and China is an important one and the Confucius Institute is here to facilitate language learning and cultural encounters between the two countries.

“We are expecting a fantastic day and that pupils will go home and share all they have learned about Chinese language and culture with their friends and families.”

George Roberts, head teacher of Danestone Primary School in Aberdeen said: “All of our pupils from Primary 1 to 7 have been learning Mandarin for the last three years.

“We feel it is vitally important they learn a second language and this has a proven benefit in their learning across the curriculum. We chose Mandarin as we feel it offers the greatest opportunities for our pupils as they move into their working lives.

“The SCEN National Pupil Conference will be a wonderful opportunity for schools engaged in this innovative area to come together, share ideas, network and develop the Chinese curriculum for their own schools.

“We are sure our pupils will have a wonderful time demonstrating what they have learned already and developing new skills.”