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Chinese delegation visit paves the way for exciting link-up with Beijing 30 September 2008

THE visit of a top-level delegation of educationalists from China and from the University of Central Lancashire will pave the way for an exciting link-up between the Isle of Man and Beijing.

The seven-strong delegation has spent today meeting local dignitaries and visiting Ballakermeen High School in Douglas. Tonight Chief Minister Hon Tony Brown MHK will host a dinner for the delegates. Chinese delegation

The visits ties in with the opening last Friday at the University of Central Lancashire of the Confucius Institute, which will promote the teaching of Chinese language and culture. The opening, in Preston, was attended by Minister for Education Hon Mrs Anne Craine MHK, Deputy Director of Education Mr Stuart Dobson and Headteacher of Ballakermeen High School Mrs Adrienne Burnett.

The Institute is one of only 10 in the UK and only two in the North West of England. UCLan is participating in a programme run by the Chinese Government whereby teachers from the Beijing International Studies University – a prestigious university specialising in modern languages and tourism – are sent overseas to teach Chinese language and culture. Four teachers will be based in Preston.

The Confucius Institute contains a reference library housing 3,000 volumes. Alongside UCLan’s Combined Honours Chinese and Business Management in China BA (Hons), the Confucius Institute will offer Chinese language taster lessons, culture workshops and teachers’ conferences.

UCLan is applying for the Isle of Man to host a satellite centre for the Confucius Institute and, if the application is accepted by the Beijing Institute of International Studies, a teacher employed under UCLan will be based at Ballakermeen High School for two-years from September 2009 and will work full-time in schools and at the International Business School promoting Chinese language and culture.

Ballakermeen High School already has strong links with China via regular exchange visits. The link with the Confucius Institute has come about via Manxman Richard Hewitt, the Isle of Man Government’s Honorary Representative in China. Mr Hewitt is based in the Guangzhou region, where he is employed as a senior lecturer by the languages department of UCLan.

Inaugural meetings took place in August and the fact-finding trip this week will lead to a memorandum of understanding being drawn up and the search beginning for a teacher to be seconded to the Island, possibly with a Chinese Week at Ballakermeen next summer by way of a taster.

Heading the visiting delegation was Professor Zhou Lie, the President of BISU, who said that although he had only been in the Island for a few hours, he was impressed by the amount of support given by the Isle of Man Government, the enthusiasm for the tie-up show by Ballakermeen High School and the ‘brilliant’ students at Ballakermeen.

It is envisaged that the secondee will introduce primary and secondary school children to the language and culture of China, offer lessons in Mandarin (which would be a third foreign language for students at Ballakermeen High School) and extend Chinese cultural links in and Island that has 60-plus Chinese families.

A wider benefit would be that students from the Island could more easily apply to study for the Combined Honours Chinese and Business Management in China BA (Hons) at UCLan and spend a year in China, during which they would experience valuable work placements at leading companies, explained Ms Feixia Yu, Director of the UCLan Confucius Institute.

She said the appointee who takes up residence at Ballakermeen next September would have good English, be a specialist at teaching Chinese, have a vibrant personality and be capable of organising cultural activities to engage the community.

Mrs Adrienne Burnett, Headteacher at Ballakermeen High School, said there were 400 million Chinese people learning English. The country was a big player in the global economy and the Island, although small, had big aspirations. The school welcomed the visitors with an exhibition of its links with China and received an invitation from the delegation for students to visit Beijing and Mrs Burnett said:

‘They thought the premises were superb and they loved the atmosphere of the school.’

Mr John Shaw, Head of the School of Languages and International Studies at UCLan, said all sorts of links between China and the Isle of Man community could blossom from the Island being created a satellite centre for the Confucius Institute. He said:

‘This is a long-term relationship. We really want people of the Isle of Man to have a full Chinese experience.’

The delegation enjoyed lunch hosted by Speaker of the House of Keys the Hon Mr Steve Rodan SHK, Department of Education member Mr Eddie Lowey MLC, Mr Dobson and Mrs Burnett. Mr Speaker led the delegation on a tour of Tynwald. Tomorrow the visitors will tour St John’s Primary School before leaving the Island.

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