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Student interview: Studying to become a teacher of Mandarin in the UK

Sian EGardiner10 July 2018

Yingying Zhang and Lydia Hargreaves have just completed a year-long Mandarin Chinese PGCE at the UCL Institute of Education to become teachers of Mandarin in UK secondary schools.

The tuition on the course draws on the best current Mandarin teaching practice in UK schools through an established national network, coordinated by the UCL IOE Confucius Institute, a bilateral collaboration with Peking University (PKU) and the Affiliated High School of Peking University, supported by Hanban

We spoke to them to find out about their experiences studying at UCL, and what comes next.

What made you decide to train as a teacher?

LH: Teaching is something I’ve always had a great interest in. I was home educated so I’ve been interested in looking at different ways of education; comparing how I was educated with other perhaps more mainstream options.

YZ: Before I moved to the UK about five years ago, I worked in China, teaching English. I realised I wanted to explore a different culture so I moved to see what the education system is like, and hopefully make a difference.

Your course is coming to an end – how have you found studying at UCL?

LH: The course has affirmed my identity as a Chinese speaker in a way which it never has been before. It’s something I totally didn’t expect, but having native-speaking friends who have accepted me as a Chinese teacher has given me a lot of affirmation. I worried it might lessen my confidence, but it’s actually built it up even more.

YZ: I found it absolutely amazing being able to study at UCL: meeting new students, discovering the culture of different schools on our placements and working with other teachers has been great.

What first attracted you to the course at UCL?

LH: Looking at my options when applying to become a teacher of Mandarin in the UK, UCL honestly seemed to be head and shoulders above the other options. It was kind of a no brainer for me.

Another really big draw was that I’d be learning about supporting bilingual learners and immigrants to the UK who are developing their English language skills in the UK system.

Yingying, what have you found the main differences to be between your teaching experience here, and in China?

In China, it’s very much teacher-led, while in the UK, it’s very much student-led. Here, almost everything is student-centric – we think from their perspective. In China, most of the time the students follow the teacher’s pace and instructions.

What’s been your course highlight?

YZ: I think the support from our tutors. They gave us such good guidelines. Every time they visited us at our placements it was really encouraging. The environment in each school is very different but with their support it made a huge difference. One of the biggest benefits has also been the encouragement to think outside the box – critically, originally and creatively.

LH:  The sense of belonging and mutual support with the other people who were qualifying has been lovely. It was mostly native speakers of Chinese but also people like myself, and I felt really welcomed.

How does it feel to have both secured jobs in London secondary schools?

LH: It’s a really exciting time to be a teacher of Mandarin. The way in which Mandarin Chinese is being taught in the UK is still very much being shaped, and it’s great that in the years to come I can be really involved with that. It’s quite pioneering – many people from our course will be starting the teaching of Chinese for the first time in their schools.

YZ: The UCL IOE Confucius Institute played a very crucial role in helping us find jobs and my new job is from my first placement, at Harris Academy in South Norwood. Learning Mandarin is very new and popular, and I’m looking forward to helping more students get to know the language and Chinese culture.

Ask GEO: Tom Windle, Senior Partnerships Manager (East and South East Asia)

SophieVinter29 November 2016

Tom Windle, East and South East Asia

Tom is GEO’s Senior Partnerships Manager for East and South East Asia. Here he tells us more about his work and UCL’s recent activity in both regions.

What is your role in GEO?

I develop and manage the portfolio of existing and potential partnerships for UCL in East and South East Asia, in line with UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy.

UCL has some really fascinating partnerships in both regions – from the UCL Institute of Education Confucius Institute leading the £10m Department for Education-funded Mandarin Excellence Programme, to UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences collaborating with the HRH Chulabhorn College of Medical Science on widening access to healthcare in Thailand.

You recently returned from a visit to China, led by Provost. How did the trip go?

The China visit went very well, incorporating visits to university partners as well as to the Chinese Ministry of Education, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the British Ambassador. UCL has been enjoying a deeper strategic partnership with Peking University (PKU) and during the trip we launched the Beijing International MBA – a collaboration between PKU’s National School of Development and UCL’s School of Management. The agreement represents a shared commitment that our two institutions have to collaborate and have a greater impact.

At Hong Kong University, UCL’s Vice-Provost Research announced a call for collaborative research proposals that address UCL Grand Challenges, under the new three-year HKU-UCL Global Strategic Partnership Fund. The purpose of this funding is to provide the necessary initial support to enable HKU and UCL academic staff to enhance existing collaboration or to pursue new, multilateral or cross-disciplinary research projects. This will complement UCL’s Global Engagement Funds in supporting grassroots international partnerships development across all UCL faculties.

It was also very exciting launching the Campaign for UCL in China. We have an enthusiastic alumni network across China and the campaign is proving a great way to engage them in supporting the ongoing work of UCL’s diverse academic and student body to work with partners to address some of the biggest challenges we face in the 21st century.

How can people keep up to date with UCL’s activity in East and South East Asia?

UCL’s collaborations in both regions are very varied, ranging from academic partnerships with overseas universities to engagement with governments, funding bodies and corporate partners.

Our regional networks, led by Director Katherine Carruthers (Pro-Vice-Provost, East Asia) and Professor Nicholas Phelps (Pro-Vice-Provost, South East Asia) are the best way to keep up to speed in terms of UCL’s collaborations there and funding opportunities. You can sign up here.

There are some great initiatives for students in both regions too. For example, the Yenching Academy at PKU is currently inviting applications from UCL students to spend a year in Beijing doing a fully funded Master’s programme in China Studies – an incredible opportunity.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently preparing for a delegation visit to Australia in December, led by the Vice-Provost International Dame Nicola Brewer, which will take in visits to various partners and stakeholders in three cities: Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.

UCL Engineering enjoys a continuing strong partnership with the Future Industries Institute at the University of South Australia (UniSA), focusing on education and research in the sustainable management and use of minerals, energy and natural resources. This year, the collaboration launched a new Post-Graduate Taught MSc Programme on Global Management of Natural Resources. The upcoming visit will be a great opportunity to touch base with our colleagues in Australia and discuss our ongoing and upcoming collaborations.

Contact Tom on:

t.windle@ucl.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 3108 7784 / internal 57784