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Community vital to school's Asia curriculum

Ngaio School is bringing Asia awareness into its curriculum through building partnerships with local Asian communities.

Students of Asian ethnicity account for almost 10 percent of the Wellington school’s role, with students of Chinese, Pakistani, South Korean, Indian, Fijian Indian, Japanese, Cambodian and Singaporean ethnicities represented.

Ngaio school Students making Chinese lanterns

Teacher Pearl Moon says, “The notion of partnership aligns with the Ngaio School model that places relationships and partnerships at the centre of our work.

“It is extremely important for us to build stronger partnerships with our Asian communities because it gives us an opportunity to hear their voice and work together as a team to provide what's best for our students.”

Once a term, the school holds Asian Partnership Consultation Evenings that provide teachers, students and parents with a chance to connect. The evenings start with a pot-luck dinner and typically include a student or group of students showcasing their culture through performance.

“This not only provides an opportunity for the students to practise leadership, but also empowers their identity by celebrating their culture,” Moon says.

The school also dedicates a week each year to celebrate the school's various cultures, with each class identifying the different cultures in their classroom and studying them through various learning opportunities.

During the week, the school invites cultural performers from around the region to perform and share their cultures with the children and parents are invited through school and syndicate newsletters to share their knowledge and experiences about different countries around the world. 

In the build up to and throughout the week, a community learning hub, the Clinic, is run by the parents at lunchtimes. Activities are held such as flag drawing, costume dress up, studying maps and making food.

Buddy classes are organised for the children to share knowledge by working interactively across the school, and the children display what they have learnt around their classrooms. At the end of each day, the classrooms are open for family members to view the children's work.

As with the cultural evenings, having community input is crucial, Moon says.

“Involvement from the community plays a vital role in making this week special.”

The Culture Weeks have also been popular with students. Angelyne Garde, who’s in Year 5 at Ngaio School, says, “Having International day is important because we learn about different countries and I enjoy trying new food and meeting new people. I really want to go to performances this year.”

Moon says Asia New Zealand Foundation’s help in establishing the school’s Asia curriculum was vital. 

“As we started our connections with the Asian community, we wanted assistance and guidance from an expert - The Asia New Zealand Foundation.

“We had an initial meeting to discuss the work we had started and possible future directions. The Asia Aware school curriculum indicated where we were (at the time) and gave us future steps that we could take to help our students become more ‘Asia aware and equipped’. The meeting allowed us to see what other schools around New Zealand were doing to support their students with Asian heritage.”

To further encourage the children to explore Asian cultures, Ngaio School has recently introduced a Mandarin language class to the curriculum, with the intention of expanding this to include other Asian languages such as Japanese and Korean.

Gabriel Tse (Yr 4) says, “I wanted to join the Mandarin class because I’m part Chinese and I want to go to China when I’m older. I enjoy doing craft and cooking for learning Chinese culture.”

Asia New Zealand Foundation’s schools coordinator Sean O’Connor says, “It is great to see Ngaio School embracing the diversity in their local community and looking at a range of initiatives to ensure their students are Asia-equipped. The Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Education team is keen to work alongside schools like Ngaio to assist students to prepare for their future with Asia”  

19 August 2015