Chinese to be rolled out in classroom as ties grow
It's a long way from the land of the dragon, but Chinese is about to arrive in Irish classrooms.
A new Transition Year module, being launched today, will provide Irish teenagers with the opportunity to learn Chinese language and culture.
It is the beginning of a roll-out of Chinese studies throughout the Irish second-level education system.
By 2014, Junior Cert students will have the option of doing a short course in Chinese and the plan is to have it as a Leaving Cert subject. Growing interest in Chinese comes as Ireland forges stronger trade links with the economic powerhouse.
China's vice-president Xi Jinping spent three days in Ireland in February and Taoiseach Enda Kenny made a return visit to China in March.
The aim of the Transition Unit is to awaken curiosity in Chinese through introducing students to both traditional and modern aspects of its culture, with some language learning.
The choice of topics being offered ranges from martial arts, ancient Chinese medicine, tea-making and paper-cutting to modern student life.
The new Transition Unit was developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the UCD Confucius Institute, which promote China-Ireland co-operation in business, education and commerce.
Representatives of the Chinese embassy and the Hanban Institute, the headquarters of Confucius institutes worldwide, were in Portlaoise, Co Laois, yesterday for the launch by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.
At the moment, only 22 of about 730 second-level schools are studying Chinese language and culture as part of a pilot project. It was the success of this project that led to the collaboration between the NCCA and the Confucius Institute on a Transition Unit.
It will be up to individual schools to decide whether to offer it as part of Transition Year and, in order to broaden its accessibility, the module has been designed to be taught by Irish teachers, supported by online materials, a DVD and a handbook.
According to NCCA CEO Dr Anne Looney, there is an enthusiasm in the 22 schools for studying Chinese and a high level of interest across the system in the subject.