Willow Park Primary School on Auckland's North Shore leads a Confucius Classroom with Northcote Intermediate School, Takapuna Normal Intermediate School and Northcote College.

Takapuna Normal Intermediate School's language site

Click here to see what's going on at Takapuna Normal Intermediate School's Mandarin language site.

A Chinese family song performed by Willow Park students

As part of their Chinese programme, young students enjoy learning and performing a Chinese song. Susanna Guo, the Mandarin language assistant featured, has been assisting the Chinese programme at Willow Park from February 2013 and will continue her placement in 2015.

New Classroom Opening 2013

A new classroom to accommodate Chinese lessons has been opened at Willow Park Primary School.

The Chinese Consul General, Mr Niu Qingbao, cut the ribbon to officially open the Classroom, after a Maori welcome from students at the school. In his address, Mr Niu encouraged students to learn Chinese and Chinese culture.

He said China was a fast developing country with a strong relationship with New Zealand. Having the skills to communicate with Chinese people would be a huge advantage.

Willow Park pincipal, Mr Jeff Johnstone, a long-time supporter of learning Chinese, said about 600 students in the school were learning Mandarin. The school had decided to set up an actual Confucius Classroom as a base for teaching Chinese, making it more convenient for the teachers and students.

The school welcomed guests to the school with a Maori ceremony and the speeches by Mr Johnston and Mr Niu.

After the opening ceremony, guests were able to see a demonstration Chinese lesson in the new classroom, created from a former dental clinic.

Confucius Classroom Opening 2010

Willow Park Primary School unveiled its Confucius Classroom in June 2010. allowing students to interact with children in sister classrooms in China, in their language, electronically.

Willow Park, an International Baccalaureate candidate school, refers in its charter to second language learning as a “lifelong asset”. After consultation with parents and their community in 2008, they trialled Mandarin the following year, which was well received by pupils and their families.

Principal of Willow Park Primary, Jeff Johnstone, said at the time of the opening that New Zealand parents were getting on board with their children learning a second language, especially Mandarin.

“We want our kids to have the skills, knowledge, attributes and attitudes that will take them through life…To have a second language, particularly Mandarin, is going to be a feather in their cap.

”With Northcote Intermediate as part of the Willow Park School Confucius Classroom cluster, there is a pathway for Willow Park children to continue their Mandarin at Intermediate level and beyond."

Mr Johnstone said the children enjoyed the colourful classes with their New Zealand trained teacher. He said the interest and knowledge of another language and culture was a positive that could continue to influence the young New Zealanders right throughout their lives, especially when they got out into the workforce.

Like all language learning, it is “the younger the better” for hearing the tones, mastering basic words and getting their heads and ears around Mandarin, he said.

Mr Johnstone himself lived and taught in Shanghai for two years with his family. When he returned to New Zealand in 2006, he was surprised to discover his Intermediate-age children could not access any Mandarin here through the school system.

“If we want to give our kids an advantage, they will increasingly need language in the future,” he said.

Gillian Eadie, Acting Director of the Confucius Institute based at the University of Auckland, has been instrumental in bringing Confucius Classrooms to New Zealand.

She says: “Mandarin is acknowledged as a language in growing demand. Our children’s future prosperity, career prospects and professional relationships will become increasingly tied to the region, and the children whose schools have taken up this opportunity through the generosity of the Chinese government will have an important language platform for a truly global future.”