Secondary Chinese learning needed: Education Ministry

The Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C) has asked the Confucius Institute to increase its provision of free Chinese language lessons across the nation’s secondary schools.

The institute’s presence in Samoa was established in 2018. It is the local arm of a global not-for-profit organisation devoted to promoting Chinese language and culture overseas. 

The Samoa Observer approached the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of M.E.S.C Mamea Vau Peseta for comments about the origin of the calls for increased teaching.

But she declined to answer specific questions and instead referred this newspaper to an earlier public statement by the Ministry which noted that there had yet to be any fixed date for ramping up the national Chinese language curriculum. 

The statement reads: “The Confucius Institute at the National University of Samoa after meetings with Principals of some selected primary schools, a Mission secondary school, and an Inclusive Education service provider, over a year ago, literally agreed on having free basic Chinese language lessons at their schools.

“The Confucius Institute’s purpose of the free lessons is to provide opportunities for students interested to get basic knowledge and skills of Chinese language.”

But the plan was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated national border restrictions. 

The Director of the Confucius Institute, Dr. Tony Guojie Liang, wrote to the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture for approval seeking approval to proceed with their plan to offer the free lessons at the three selected Government primary schools.

The schools were selected by the institute and included Apia Primary School, Vaivase Primary School, and Magiagi Primary School.

“Approval was granted by M.E.S.C. for the Confucius Institute to proceed after much consideration of the purpose of the free lessons offered, and the importance and value of having our young Samoan citizens, gain some level of proficiency in the Chinese language, in order to learn, understand and relate to the minority but growing Chinese population in Samoa,” the media release reads.

M.E.S.C has noted a growing number of local students win scholarships to pursue tertiary studies in China under the China-Samoa bilateral agreement for training and tertiary studies.

Those who earn these scholarships have to undergo Chinese language training for up to two years in China before they can begin their study programmes.

M.E.S.C said that beginning basic Chinese language education in Samoa was “one step forward” in assisting with the development and preparedness of students for prospective future tertiary study. 

“The Confucius Institute was advised to work closely with the schools they have selected to ensure required and normal teaching and learning hours are not interrupted to accommodate these Chinese lessons,” the statement said.

“Furthermore, for their program to be a sustainable program, and not just a one-off- time program limited to their selected primary schools, they were advised to consider extending their free lessons program to some secondary schools for the aforementioned development and preparedness of students for the future to be a sustainable and achievable goal.

“The Ministry’s advice to extend lessons to secondary schools is purely [...] for the Confucius Institute’s consideration for the reasons mentioned earlier, but no plans have been discussed nor planned as of date.”

The Samoa Observer had sent questions to Dr. Tony Liang but he said he was not authorised to comment on the matter. 

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