Chinese New Year’s a roaring success

Crumlin primary school pupils were treated to dazzling lion dances and daring martial arts as they heralded in the Chinese New Year.

St Joseph’s Primary School was joined by the neighbouring Irish medium school, Gaelscoil & Naíscoil Ghleann Darach, to celebrate the Year of the Sheep as they hosted a very special assembly.

The event, which was organised by British Council Northern Ireland, saw P3 and P4 pupils entertained by the Chinese Welfare Association, who delighted their captivated audience with a prowling ‘lion’, Chinese martial arts and Chinese games; including the famous ‘chopsticks challenge’.

The pupils however also impressed their guests with their own knowledge of Mandarin; rhyming off words, greetings and how to count to ten, having had the advantage of welcoming Chinese Language Assistant, Zhang Hai Yang, to the school back in September 2014.

Speaking about the event, Deirdre Downey, Coordinator of International Links at St Joseph’s Primary said: “Today’s event has been another great opportunity to bring Chinese culture to life in the classroom. All the pupils really enjoyed the day and it was something that they’ve probably never experienced before. It was also a great way for us to bring Chinese culture to another school, creating a shared community and adding an international dimension to learning.

“The day complements what we already do with our Chinese Language Assistant, Zhang Hai Yang, who has been an asset in promoting Chinese culture in the classroom. She has worn traditional Chinese dress, shown the children how to use chopsticks, and taught them how to say all of the names of the animals of the zodiac. The children love speaking Chinese to me and confidently soak it all up. I hope that some of them will continue learning it after primary school.”

This Chinese New Year is of particular significance, with 2015 being the UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange; a year-long celebration of the rich and diverse cultural relationship of both countries.

According to Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director, British Council Northern Ireland, the year ahead couldn’t be timelier.

He said: “2015 will focus on the next generation, developing cultural exchanges, the flow of ideas and developing stronger relationships between people and institutions. The influence that China has on the world economy is increasing and it is important that we do all we can to prepare our young people for life in a globalised, multicultural society.

“Young people therefore need to be outward looking, not only to face the challenges of globalisation but to embrace the opportunities that open up new horizons for their future. Today’s event is just one way we can do this, and we hope we can continue to prepare young people for a more international, connected world.”

The school visit coincides with Northern Ireland’s official Chinese New Year celebrations, ‘In the City, At the Centre’, which kicks off at T13 in the Titanic Quarter, Belfast, this Sunday, February 22. The event, hosted by the Chinese Welfare Association NI in partnership with NI Chinese Chamber of Commerce, promises to be Northern Ireland’s largest Chinese New Year event and will include Chinese acrobats, martial arts and tai qi, not to mention traditional Chinese music.

Speaking ahead of the event, William Olphert, Managing Director of the Chinese Welfare Association said:

“For someone who was first introduced to Chinese through a mathematics lesion in P6 – the importance of letting our children explore new languages at an early age cannot be underestimated.

“Languages open pupils up to a whole new word and events such as this are important if we wish to celebrate diversity and build a more tolerant and inclusive society. The Chinese New Year is a celebration of life and can be a way to learn from each other, while celebrating individuality. In turn, we can exchange ideas, appreciate our differences and show mutual respect.

“In Northern Ireland, Chinese is a diverse and evolving community and New Year celebrations are no longer for just a small minority – instead they attract the whole community – enabling Northern Ireland to continue to develop as a welcoming society.”

There international opportunities to visit China through the British Council Northern Ireland. This includes for schools, students and academics, employers and artists. For more information visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org

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