The Foundation’s Educators Network manager Sean O’Connor says the goal of the Experience Asia Evenings is to help give principals and teachers ideas about holding Experience Asia Days at their schools.
Experience Asia Days are where schools set aside class time for experts in their fields to teach students about Asian cultural activities - such as calligraphy, yoga, and martial arts - as well as Asian languages and the social sciences.
The Foundation will be calling for applications for funding towards Experience Asia Days in term three of this year.
“We know that Asia is increasingly going to play an important part in the futures of our young people," O'Connor says. "But many of today’s teachers and principals didn’t have the opportunity to learn about Asian cultures themselves while they were at school."
"Our hope is that these Experience Asia Evenings will build teachers' confidence, help educators to share ideas, and provide useful starting points for running cultural fluency programmes for their students.
The Experience Asia Evenings will also help connect educators to local people who can help them with their Experience Asia Days. Calligrapher Stan Chan and Mindy Wu from Asiana Cooking School contributed to the Wellington event, as well as members of the Foundation’s Leadership Network, who spoke to the teachers about learning as Asian language.
The Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples 2015 report found that while most New Zealanders appreciate the importance of Asia to New Zealand’s future, two-thirds of people feel they know little or nothing about Asia. The report also found that people who reported more involvement with Asian cultures or knowledge of Asia had more positive feelings about the region and its people.
“We see schools as being a crucial part of the Foundation’s long-term work to help increase New Zealanders’ familiarity with the region,” Mr O’Connor says.
The Experience Asia events are part of the wider work done in the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s education programme to help educators equip their students to thrive with Asia. The Foundation also offers overseas opportunities, resources and professional development for teachers and principals.
With the Foundation's help, organising an Experience Asia Day can be a reasonably straight forward undertaking, O'Connor says.
"Not only do we have funding available that schools can apply for to help finance these sort of activities, we can also assist them to source experts who may not be available in their local school community."