Mandarin classes, supported by the Government of Taiwan, have begun at the St Vincent Girls’ High School (GHS), and first form students are responding “very positively” to the initiative.
From the point that teaching Mandarin at the institution was imagined, to its realisation, took just short of one year.
Andrea Bowman, Ambassador at the Embassy of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Republic of China (Taiwan) said the idea was proposed by Zuleika Lewis, a former student of the GHS.
Lewis, a journalist, is a beneficiary of Taiwan’s scholarship program for its diplomatic allies, and a recent graduate of the Ming Chuan University. In an October 7, 2019 visit to the newly opened Embassy of SVG in Taiwan, she planted the idea in the mind of the Ambassador, who also served in the capacity of Headmistress of the girls’ school for 13 years.
“Within the context of SVG/Taiwan relations, the benefits and potential of this programme are boundless. A country’s language carries its culture. Therefore, the cultural exchange through language automatically deepens our 39 years of diplomatic relations,” Bowman explained.
“…Since 2004, more and more Vincentian students have been exposed to and have learned Mandarin. They are thus more equipped to traverse the expanding socioeconomic horizons of a world that is rapidly trending eastward,” she contemplated.
Present GHS headmistress Michelle Beache, the foreign language department at the school, the Ministry of Education, and the Taiwanese Embassy in SVG were all involved in the process.
The logistics of sourcing a teacher from Taiwan had to be worked out, which took some time. Nevertheless, as at Monday, September 14, four first form classes with approximately 130 students all together, have begun their sessions learning Mandarin, instructed by teacher Yvette Huang.
The Embassy of Taiwan carries the responsibility of the teacher’s remuneration.
SVG’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs captured the moment of excitement for the students, in a video that was shared on the page of Taiwan’s Embassy in SVG.
In this video, the students can be seen fully engaged and excited to learn Mandarin words through song.
So too was the excitement captured in another video posted by the Taiwan Technical Mission in St Vincent and the Grenadines. “Today is the first ever Mandarin Chinese class in Girls’ High School. What surprised the principal was that students can sing a Chinese song in one hour! Let’s see how amazing they are,” the caption for the video reads.
“Once successful, it is expected that the programme will be carried to other secondary Schools that are interested in expanding their foreign language curriculum,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated.
Ambassador Bowman notes, “I feel that GHS has a responsibility to advance initiatives. The school is infrastructurally equipped to do so.”
She has outlined that “the intention is to effect a developmental programme which moves from the first to the fifth form.”
The subject has two periods a week, as opposed to French, the other language that is taught in the GHS first form, which has five sessions. “The broad curricular plan is to introduce the students to the history and the culture in order to contextualize an introductory language course,” Bowman noted.
In a brief interview with GHS Headmistress Michelle Beache on Wednesday, it was revealed that the first week of classes are “off to a good start.” She described the students as responding very positively to them.
Mandarin will not be a tested subject at the school for this level, and currently there is not a Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination associated with it.
However, the Headmistress said this may be different in the future.