Tauranga Intermediate is the largest in the country with more than 1200 boys and girls in 40 classrooms – but seven of the school’s Mandarin language students found going to class in China a bit of a culture shock.
Students Te Wairere Te Moana, Riley Bartosh, Olivia Simmonds, Ngawaka Ririnui, Anne Robinson, Stephanie Austin and Jaimee Eades accompanied a small group of civic leaders to Tauranga’s sister city Yantai in April to celebrate the relationship’s 30th birthday.
Tauranga Intermediate School pupils learning tai chi at Yantai.
The students were also flanked by Tauranga intermediate deputy principal Kathy Colville and the school’s international student co-ordinator Annemieke Hart – and got to attend Yantai No2 Middle School.
The Yantai No2 Middle School has three campuses and more than 10,000 students. In Yantai, school starts at 7.15am and finishes at 5.30pm, followed by hours of homework.
There was also all-school Physical Education every day, with 4000 students running, skipping, and practising tai chi.
Reflecting on the trip at a Tauranga City Council committee meeting this week, Riley thinks the two-hour lunch break could be introduced to New Zealand schools.
As well as performing at a couple of the civic events, the pupils attended school for a week, where in spite of the long school-hours, and the different language, they say they enjoyed school in china.
“The people at Yantai No 2 School were very nice to all of us,” says Te Wairere Te Moana. “They all wanted to talk to us and share their culture.”
Stephanie Austin says on the day they arrived to meet their host families students were lining the paths clapping and cheering.
“There were even kids looking out of windows to catch a glimpse of us,” says Stephanie. “At other times during our time at school many students took the time to acquaint themselves with us.”
During school activities like tai chi, calligraphy, Chinese culture, and physical education, students were always waving at the Tauranga students or coming up to them and giving them gifts.
“I find it hard to believe the students are so nice, considering their school day starts at 7.15am and finishes at 5.30pm,” says Stephanie.