‘Hello! Hello! Melanie?’ a clear friendly audible voice asked.
‘Yes, I am here! Is it Mai?” I asked with a great big smile on my face! ‘Hello’
‘Oh, good, good, oh hello students I can see you all!’ Mai, our Chinese Teacher from Beijing replied.
‘Hello!’ A sea of Dumbleyung student voices echoed back, smiling and waving!
Last Friday the 11th of August, Dumbleyung Primary Students trialled a Chinese Mandarin lesson streamed live from Beijing. We participated in the trial lesson to help inform our decision making for the 2018 compulsory introduction of Languages for all Year 3 students in Western Australian Schools. Like most schools in the Regions, we are faced with the challenge of attracting and retaining quality Language teachers who can teach a language we want our students to participate in.
Why Chinese Mandarin? China is one of the lead economies that Australia engages with. We sell a large amount of our commodities to China, particularly in food production which is our major local economy here in Dumbleyung. China has a population of 1.4 billion people and growing, and they all speak a form of Mandarin. Beijing, where our lessons will be streamed from also share the same timeline as Dumbleyung. The numbers and logistics make sense.
As a school the only infrastructure we had to invest in was a $130.00 webcam. Our new eBoards and internet is all which is required to see the lessons come to fruition. The children sat on the ground in clear view of the screen and talked normally, the teacher in Beijing was able to pick up all of the children clearly as they engaged in dialogue. There was no delay at all.
It is really exciting to see our rural students having the opportunity to engage and participate in quality language instruction which only their city peers have access to. Our geographical location is slowly becoming irrelevant due to technology, and I find this truly exciting. Our other option would be for our classroom teachers to deliver language instruction, but I would prefer our classroom teachers’ focus on Literacy and Numeracy. Leaving the languages curriculum to a fully qualified teachers in China who can assist on a daily basis providing Chinese Mandarin across our continent is preferable.
The students learnt how to say hello (ni hao) and good bye ( zai jian) in Mandarin, and were given a look outside of the Beijing office through the webcam. The students saw sky rises and a smoggy sky line. We returned the banter by poking our webcam out the window. Mai, our teacher was amused at the thought that the whole town of Dumbleyung had a population of 260 people, Mai thought her office team had about 260 people!
The students had a truly unique and highly engaging learning experience. We are all pretty pumped at the idea of this becoming a weekly occurrence at Dumbleyung Primary School in 2018.
Article by M Ball, Principal, Dumbleyung Primary School