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Kaitao Middle School

Kaitao Middle School has 12 years of experience with second language learning and has had Chinese as part of its language offerings since around 2000.

Principal Rory O’Rourke says that the school’s strategy is to have all students learning Chinese by 2012.

Ensuring their Chinese language programme is sustainable and involving the community in its development are key factors to ensure success.

Rory says there were many reasons to include Chinese in the languages programme, but the main driver came from the community itself.

Strong links with the community

When the school consulted parents about what languages they thought students should be taught, they came back with a clear indication that Chinese was the main language of choice.

“This is interesting given the school population is 70% Māori,” says Rory. “I think because Rotorua is a main tourist destination, parents can see first-hand the need for students to be equipped to speak to people in another language and manage tourism in the area.”

Integrating the learning into the school

A focus of the Kaitao team is to integrate Chinese across the school.

Rory says that the school is now using Chinese as part of its assembly greetings each morning. “We already have greetings in three or four different languages and we’re seeing the students using it there.”

The school also runs its own web based television programme called KTV where they read in English and now in Chinese.

The link to the website is: http://ktv2010.blogspot.com.

Developing a strong teacher base is key

A particular focus of the school is to develop strong teachers to help make the Chinese language programme sustainable.

The programme started with a couple of teachers at the school who were interested in teaching it. Now the school runs eight Chinese language classes each week with three teachers who have been teaching Chinese for around one year, along with one teacher who has around four years’ experience.

“The aim is not to hold the resource in just one person. We want to develop strong teachers in their own right,” says Rory.

So Rory ensures that there are resources available to support the teachers and the Chinese language programme.

A library has been set up with assistance from the Confucius Institute and Rory ensures that all the Chinese language teachers have the opportunity to go to China on the professional development opportunity.

The school has also worked closely with Laytee George, who helps support teachers in the classroom. This has helped the teachers feel more confident teaching the language.

The school also runs professional development programmes and Saturday professional development days for teachers of Chinese where they make resources and improve their knowledge.

Rory himself has also been on the Principals group tour organised by the Confucius Institute in Auckland.

Together the school hopes that these initiatives will help build capability and capacity within the school, ensuring that the language programme is sustainable and enduring.

Voice of the students

Some of the students at Kaitao, who have been learning Chinese for two years, tell us their views on learning Chinese and offer some advice to other students.


“Some of the best things are saying a speech and being able to introduce my family. The hardest part is saying my country’s name in Chinese. It’s really long!”


“There’s lots of ways to speak in Chinese and it was confusing at the start but it’s really easy once you get used to it. My advice to other students thinking about learning is: don’t be scared!”


“When you get stuck on the numbers you can make it into a game and it makes it easier to learn. Games help with learning characters and numbers.”

“Learning to say nationalities of people in class is hardest. There are lots of people from other countries in the class.”

“My advice for other students is to go for it. It’s real easy!”


  • Build and foster a network of strong teachers of Chinese in your school. Look at the professional development opportunities that are available for teachers. Work together with fellow schools to help develop capability.
  • Find ways to integrate the language programme within the overall school environment. “We’ve started by introducing Chinese greetings in school events like assemblies. It’s a small initiative, but something useful to start,” says Rory.
  • Look at the development of the language programme over the long term to ensure its sustainability. “It’s a gradual process,” says Rory, “but well worth it.”

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