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'Building relationship between strath and China could bring potentially huge benefits'

By Gavin Musgrove

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Bill Lobban...Highland Council Convener and local member for Badenoch and Strathspey.
Bill Lobban...Highland Council Convener and local member for Badenoch and Strathspey.

Ties with China started in Badenoch and developed in Strathspey could serve the area well in the future, a senior Highland councillor has predicted.

Members heard a presentation on the Highland Confucius Hub by Ann MacKintosh, Principle Teacher of Languages at Grantown Grammar School at Thursday's full council meeting in Inverness.

The presentation highlighted the key work within the school and highlights from the school’s trip to China in 2019.

Confucius Institute was originally set up to promote educational, economic, and cultural ties by teaching Chinese culture and language across the globe.

In Scotland, there are 21 secondary hubs, 19 primary hubs, and three specialist hubs.

The Highland Hub originally started in 2015 at Kingussie High School and then moved to Grantown Grammar School in 2018/19.

Highland Council convener Bill Lobban said: “A huge amount of work went into bringing the Confucius Hub to Kingussie in the first place and I was extremely disappointed to see it dropped.

"I am, however, delighted that Grantown Grammar School stepped in to fill the void and all credit to the staff for having the vision to do so.

"Building a relationship with China, one of the most powerful economies in the world, is potentially of massive benefit to pupils and the future of Badenoch and Strathspey."

Ms Jinxiu Wang joined Grantown Grammar for two years in 2019 and was present through the Covid lockdowns.

She taught in the associated primary schools and worked with S1-3 pupils in the senior school providing basic Mandarin lessons and cultural input including dance, singing, painting, cooking, and sports, as well as getting involved in all aspects of school life.

Several pupils from the school also visited China in 2019 with the aim to introduce pupils to the country's culture and traditions. This also helped them to study for the SQA bridge award at Level 4.

A total of 10 pupils from four schools in the region – Grantown Grammar School, Kingussie High School, Nairn Academy and Plockton High School formed the Highland group and then met with 120 pupils from throughout Scotland.

The trip included language and culture lessons where pupils learned the art of fan-making; how to play traditional Chinese musical instruments and visits to some of the country's most popular tourism attractions.

These included the Summer Palace, The Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Olympic Park and the Great Wall of China.

The group also visited their partner school, Tianjin Wuqing Yangcun No 1. High School, which is where Ms Wang teaches.

Mrs MacKintosh told the committee: “I was very proud of the group of pupils from Highland that I took to China.

"They gelled well as a group but were also complimented by all the other adults on the trip about the way in which they included other people in everything they did.

“The China immersion was a huge success for the Highland pupils, all of whom have memories and stories to tell in the future, but also lifelong friends in other parts of Scotland who they would never have met had it not been for this opportunity.”

The meeting heard the trip had a big impact on two Highland pupils in particular.

One pupil has gone on to study Mandarin at Oxford University and another pupil was awarded a year long scholarship to China.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 prevented international travel, however, she managed to gain her qualification remotely and worked closely with Ms Wang to achieve this.

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