A NEW Chinese programme developed for Transition Year students is to be rolled out in more than 50 schools from next year.
a course in Mandarin is expected to be introduced at Junior Cert level by 2014 with a view to adding it as a Leaving Cert subject in the future.
The programme on Chinese culture and Mandarin language was developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment with the UCD Confucius Institute, which promotes greater co-operation between Ireland and China.
The new study module has been successfully piloted in 22 schools so far.
The Transition Unit would allow Irish teens to become more familiar with Chinese culture and to get basic language skills in Mandarin.
Topics included in the new programme range from martial arts, ancient Chinese medicine, tea-making and paper cutting to more modern topics like student life.
The Director, Curriculum and Assessment with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), Majella O'Shea said today that this initiative was driven by pupils' growing interest in Chinese culture.
She added that the programme was designed to allow students to "discuss aspects of Chinese culture" that they are particularly interested in and to "compare" them with Irish culture.
The Confucius Institutes in UCD and UCC currently support around 80 schools with various extra-curricular Chinese learning programmes, available to different age groups.
They provide language teachers from China for the language classes, however the new Transition Unit is instead designed so that Irish teachers can deliver the lessons.
Online tutorials and other materials such as DVDs and handbooks will be provided to support Irish teachers.
As part of planned reform of the Junior Certificate syllabus, the NCCA is also designing a short course in Mandarin that will be available to Junior Cert students in two years' time.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn launched the new initiative yesterday in Portlaoise, Co Laois with representatives of the Chinese embassy and the Hanban Insitute, which are the headquarters of Confucius Institutes worldwide.
The minister expressed intentions of developing a course in Mandarin as a Leaving Cert subject "in due course".