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School party heads for China 21 October 2008

TWO dozen students from a Douglas high school set off on an educational visit to China tomorrow (Thursday).

Ballakermeen High School is paying a second visit to Number One School ,in Liuyang, to work with the students and to understand more about the culture of the world's biggest country.

Tony Heggs, who is organising the expedition along with Deputy Headteacher Keith James, said the objectives of the visit were to:

• help students understand education in a very different culture;

• work with Chinese students, mainly in a teaching capacity, to help them develop their spoken English;

• help students understand a country that will play an increasingly important and dominant part in their adult lives, as it develops into the world’s biggest economy.

Mr James explained:

'Most of the time will be spent in Liuyang a town with a population the size of the Isle of Man, two hours flight south of Beijing. The party will be based at the Number 1 School. This is a school with over 5,000 students, with a 7am to 7pm school day. Most of the children are boarders as they come from villages some distance from the town. In this school the Ballakermeen students will become involved with the social and educational activities. They will work in groups, going around classes, partly fulfilling the Chinese students’ great demand for conversational English. They will also spend recreational time with them and eat with them in the school dining room. The school will organise talks on local culture and any students who wish, will be able to experience one or two night’s home stay.'

There will be formal functions attended by civic leaders, at which the Ballakermeen students will present greetings and gifts from the Isle of Man.

The school's 2006 visit attracted TV and newspaper coverage and it is thought the 16 and 17-year-olds visiting this time will experience similar media interest.

'Throughout the visit the students will be immersed in the Chinese culture. Meals will be in the school. They will spend part of the time living in a house of one of the students. The restaurants and the hotels, in which they will be staying, will be local Chinese hotels, not international chains,' said Mr James.

Headteacher Adrienne Burnett said the visit was part of the school's growing links with the country.

'Two years ago we signed a partnership agreement with Number One School. As well as the visit in 2006 we received a group of 26 students from Liuyang who spent 10 days with our school in summer 2007. This was followed earlier this year when two 14 year old students travelled from the school to work at Ballakermeen for the spring term,' she said.
'The impact of the link is shown by the fact that two of our students, Jonny and David Wildman, changed their university option to read Oriental Studies. They have taken a gap year, prior to taking up places at Oxford and Cambridge respectively, and are currently working in the school in Liuyang for six months.
'More recently the visit from members of the Confucius Centre in Beijing to the school, and the plan to place a Chinese teacher at Ballakermeen next year, resulted from the development of these links. They remarked that the school was in the forefront of schools, within the British Isles, for the development of partnerships with Chinese schools.'

The students will also enjoy three days in Beijing following the time in Liuyang. There will be a time to visit the Forbidden City, The Great Wall, the Summer Palace and possibly the Olympic Stadium. They return to the Island on 5 November.

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