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  Snapshot 1: Macleans College – Intercultural co-curricular club

The Intercultural Club, set up over 15 years ago to welcome and help integrate Asian students into Macleans College, has blossomed into the largest co-curricular club in the school, with over 400 students belonging to the 25+ associated sub-groups. It gives students an opportunity to publicly acknowledge their identity, celebrate and learn more about their own and other cultures.
Asian students are the majority within the Club, although increasing numbers of non-Asian students are also now attending.

Sub-groups and activities

The activities represented under the Intercultural Club umbrella include a range of dances, music and martial arts. Groups include the Chinese Boys and Girls Flag Dance, Chinese Girls Dance group, the Korean Drum Group, the Indian Dance Group, and the Intercultural Choir.

“Crossovers are becoming more common, with Europeans learning to play Korean drums and Chinese girls learning Indian dances.”

– Teacher in charge of the Intercultural Club, Isabelle Mouquet.

Club groups and committees usually meet once or twice a week, or more often if they’re preparing for a performance. Using a formal committee structure, with students taking on positions of responsibility, encourages student ownership of the club and a commitment to its sustainability.

“Groups like Lion Dance and Korean Dance are very popular and offer great things to student[s] who are not contact sport or musically inclined.”

The Lion Dance group has now been running almost 10 years and was started by Master Tseng, who donated the first ‘lion’ to the school. He spent time training senior students, who in turn trained younger students – this knowledge is passed on to newcomers.

Isabelle says the clubs bring cultural identification and a sense of belonging. “It is a way to show this is who I am, this is what we do, this is how we dress and where we come from. So much pride and effort goes into performances. And parents are extremely supportive.”

Public profile

Over the years the public profile of the performance groups has increased, with students taking part in external competitions and events such as Viva Electika, the Indian Talent Quest and the Diwali Festival of Lights. Mostly they focus on voluntary public performances, for example, for local primary schools, and charity fundraising. These events inspire interest and passion in students because they feel they’re making a difference.

This interaction with the outside community raises awareness within the wider community of the school’s diversity,” says Isabelle. "The students continue to refine the groups and I think they've got it working extremely well in the last couple of years."

The Club also holds school-based events such as a Race Relations Day, an annual Food Festival, a Fair Day, Flag Festival, and also celebrates Matariki, the Māori New Year.

Snapshot 2: Macleans College – Chinese parent group

A committed group of Chinese parents has kept communication links open between Macleans College and its Chinese community for the past six years.

The Macleans College Chinese Parent Group meets every six to eight weeks to listen to guest speakers, and organise activities such as an annual Chinese dinner and Moon Festival celebrations. Informal socialising also occurs around these meetings.

The group was set up by Rosa Chow to encourage more parental involvement in the school.

“There was little involvement, partly because of language and cultural barriers but also because Chinese are relatively reserved and shy. It is also hard to work out how to get involved.”

– Rosa, five-term Board of Trustees representative.

Connecting parents

Parents were informed of the inaugural meeting of the Chinese Parent Group through a telephone tree set up by Rosa and a number of interested parents. The telephone tree has been an effective form of communication and is still very much part of the group’s operation.

Rosa says attendance can vary, depending on the discussion topics, and it is important to present topics that are of genuine interest to the community. “Usually the first meeting in the school year is a good one, attracting around 60 parents. Other times there may only be a handful.”
The first topic each year has been the exam system, which parents always find interesting and relevant. “However, after three years the interest is dropping off because parents are becoming more knowledgeable about it.”

It also makes a difference to the status of the group that the school principal attends every meeting. Rosa believes it sends a powerful message of acknowledgment, inclusiveness and respect.

Building community relationships

The group also organises and supports school functions, with an annual Chinese dinner attracting over 100 people including teachers and Kiwi parents. “This really helps build relationships,” says Rosa. “Parents are really impressed that teachers turn up. They wouldn’t normally do that back in China.”
She says Macleans College has increased its channel of communication markedly since she first got involved in the school. Information is often translated into Chinese and the Chinese version of the school's website is well read by the wider community.

Board of Trustees

Fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, Rosa says Chinese parents see her as their contact point, and she willingly hands out her phone number. She decided to stand for the Board of Trustees to help bring her community closer to the school – and that is happening.

“It is still difficult listening to topics that are not familiar because I don’t always understand everything and the day-to-day slang is hard to follow. But the other trustees have been extremely accommodating and helpful and I feel accepted. Any suggestions I put forward are always acknowledged and discussed and I feel accepted because of that.”

Snapshot 3: Bucklands Beach Intermediate - Beginning school for new settlers

“The more you know about each other, the more you are likely to be on the same wave length.”

– Diane Parkinson, Bucklands Beach Intermediate School principal.

As 50% of the school’s students were born outside New Zealand, predominantly in China and Korea, it makes a big difference to the school to ensure the Asian communities are fully embraced. To ease transition into the school, new Asian students initially meet with two teacher aides in the ESOL department – Chinese qualified teacher Wai Ming Young and Korean qualified teacher aide Su Young Kim.

“The children, who often arrive at school with limited English, are made to feel more comfortable through this early association with their own language in their new setting.”

 Parental support

At the start of each term the school has separate community afternoon teas for Chinese parents with English as a second language, Korean parents, and home-stay parents of international students. Parents are contacted through newsletters in Korean and Chinese that ask them to RSVP. If the school feels the response is low, their two ESOL teacher aides will phone parents. The meetings are set up as an afternoon tea to make it less formal, with the gathering kept casual but with an agenda.

The community afternoon teas are considered highly successful and introduce families and caregivers to the school system, with each parent receiving a term planner that is discussed in detail by a senior manager with the help of an interpreter. It also provides an opportunity to meet other parents, and information is then passed on through their communities.
“Often there are lots of little things that come up in discussion that we can explain in a way that puts parents' minds at rest but would have been detrimental if left unsaid,” explains Diane.

“Many New Zealand school activities can be perplexing to newcomers”, says Diane. “For example, Year 7 camp is an alien concept to many Asian parents, who worry their children will be facing an environment akin to a desert island/survivor of the fittest scenario.”

“So we explain what the camp is about and show them equipment like sleeping bags and backpacks, and explain how they can borrow or buy them. We explain what ‘togs’ are – all those little things that are so strange when you’re new to New Zealand,” says Diane.

She explains to each gathering that she is the point of contact for Asian parents and consequently many parents find their way to her office during the term to ask about school and related issues. Diane feels it is important for a senior staff manager to attend because it gives parents a face and name to connect with the school at that level.

“The afternoon teas are also a good way to help the community get together and meet each other,” says Diane.

  Snapshot 4: Masterton Intermediate – Student exchange

Masterton Intermediate is one of many schools in New Zealand running a student exchange programme with an Asia sister school. The principal and staff all agree that the exchange, running now for 14 years, brings numerous benefits and has assisted the school to foster greater cultural and global awareness, and forge long-term international relationships.

The exchange, with Shijonawate Gakuen Junior High School (Osaka, Japan), allows students and staff the opportunity to immerse themselves in the life of their sister school.
One of the main benefits of school/life exchange experiences, according to teachers Darren Kerr and Linda Morris (deputy principal), is the interaction between the two schools.

When Masterton students visit Japan they stay with host families, learn Japanese and keep a diary of their experiences. This information is then incorporated into a detailed scrapbook/report that includes photos, pamphlets etc which is presented to their principal and school on their return. This becomes a lifelong record of their experiences. When Japanese students visit Masterton Intermediate they become part of their host class, learn ‘action English’, get taught a haka, stay on a local marae hosted by school staff and kapa haka students, and enjoy a range of social events and experiences including a special school social/dance and a ‘sayonara’ evening.

Classroom activities for NZ students

Students travelling to Japan prepare through language lessons, researching Japanese culture and equipping themselves with ‘survival language’.

“We get the students to go away and prepare situations they think they will need to know how to deal with,” says Darren. “We don’t drip feed them.”

This includes things like asking the Japanese host family about when to get up in the morning, what time they will leave the house and describing their family back home.

The school uses a variety of guest speakers to help prepare the students – past exchangees, a language expert from Victoria University of Wellington and local college students, who have spent three months in Japan on scholarship.

All exchange students attend an additional class in terms two and three, which includes work on culture, speech preparation and learning how to make food for the Sayonara evening. Most of the students study Japanese through the school’s second language programme. Those that don’t, go to special language classes with Darren and Linda.

Classroom activities for Japanese students

Visiting Japanese students join their host students in class for five one-and-a-half hour sessions over two weeks. Common activities include teaching New Zealand students Japanese games, making signs for classroom objects in Japanese, and bringing family and home photos into class. These photo discussions allow students to explore experiences of daily living in each others’ countries.

One of the most successful activities is staying overnight on a local marae with teachers and students selected from Masterton Intermediate’s kapa haka group. Japanese students learn haka, poi and Māori action songs, and in turn teach local students a traditional Japanese dance.

School/staff benefits

Linda, Darren and others on the staff have learned Japanese and now teach it as part of the school’s second language programme. Other Masterton staff members have also travelled to Japan, and close friendships between teachers from both countries have resulted from the exchange.

Linda says a major benefit for her school is the natural interaction between Japanese and Kiwis – staff, students and community. Other benefits include making the school’s language curriculum real, attracting students to Masterton Intermediate, and encouraging the study of Japanese by students preparing for the exchange selection process.

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