Embracing culture of the East and the West

International schools seek to creatively weave Chinese culture into students' life through its engaging dual-language approach.
Embracing culture of the East and the West

Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong students champion local culture

Dulwich College Shanghai Year 13 student Yoran takes particular pride in his Shanghainese roots. Born in Shanghai in 2002, he moved to Hawaii after primary school before returning to his home city in 2018 to attend Dulwich Pudong.

Upon the teenager’s arrival at the school he immediately volunteered to host the school’s annual Chinese New Year gala as one of the bilingual hosts.

Yoran wanted to wear something unique to showcase his cultural heritage so he wore the same traditional Chinese gown (Zhongshan suit) his father had worn on his wedding day.

“I’m very proud of my background, and the students at Dulwich are very eager to learn about other cultures,” Yoran said. “The opportunity to host the Lunar New Year event was a real highlight.”

The Lunar New Year gala is just one-way Dulwich students engage with local culture, and there is a myriad of meaningful ways to experience Chinese culture.

Students gain cultural awareness from a wealth of creative ideas to bring the East and West together, and this begins with the Early Years Dulwich College Kindergarten and Infants’ School (DUCKS) program.

Worldwise education at DUCKS involves all the senses and helps students construct meaning from the world around them to build intercultural understanding.

The dual-language approach immerses children in both English and Mandarin throughout the Early Years and into Key Stage One.

A love of learning and fostering literacy is supported through a rich supply of books in English and Mandarin. Themes, vocabulary, concepts and perspectives can be learned and supported in the dual-language approach.

In the Early Years, students’ senses are engaged through pretend tea ceremonies, and role-playing meals that include Chinese utensils, chopsticks and steamed bun trays. Children always enjoy dressing up and traditional Chinese clothing is a popular choice.

At DUCKS, the learning environment contains a variety of culturally appropriate stimuli and carved artifacts to foster their interest and curiosity. Role-play areas include cultural references, such as a bank ATM that dispenses handmade Chinese notes and a noodle shop with bilingual menus in Mandarin and English.

Celebrating Chinese festivals is a highlight for all students. The history and symbolism in Chinese stories and poems from ancient festivals provide engaging discussions.

Early in the school year, the Mid-Autumn Festival offers an opportunity to engage with stories and eat tasty dumplings.

The Lunar New Year is filled with celebrations, including traditional dancers and teachers performing stories like the zodiac animals in The Great Race.

Dual-language teachers teach students how to write fu, or good luck, in calligraphy, construct paper lanterns and create plum blossom pictures.

Effort is made to connect with the English National Curriculum as often as possible.

Whether students are learning about everyday life or celebrating annual festivals, Chinese culture is creatively woven into the curriculum through engaging teaching methods. In 2019, 57 students from senior school won prizes at the “Chinese Culture into Campus” essay competition organized by Shanghai government.

(This article is contributed by Shining Yang, head of Mandarin, Mandy Yu, junior school Mandarin coordinator and Vivi Zhao, DUCKS Mandarin coordinator at Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong.)

Embracing culture of the East and the West

Through celebrations of traditional Chinese festivals, Dulwich lays the foundation for students’ international mindedness.

The importance of celebrating local context

Here at Dulwich College Shanghai Puxi, we believe strongly in the value of celebrating our local context, as evidenced by our wide range of cultural celebrations throughout the year.

Since the opening of the first Dulwich College International School in Shanghai in 2003, the family of schools has continued to develop in China and other parts of Asia, generating a large body of talented citizens who go on to further education across the globe.

Dulwich College shares a vision of helping our students “Graduate Worldwise,” with a strong element of this grounded in appreciating the culture of our host country, China.

Through celebrations such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, Chinese Lunar New Year, the Lantern Festival, as well as residential trips, excursions and tours, we provide students with opportunities to understand Chinese traditional culture and customs, laying a solid foundation for their “international mindedness.”

Why do we do this?

China is one of the four ancient civilizations in the world, alongside Mesopotamia, Egypt and India, with a splendid history and culture of more than 5,000 years. This rich history provides many lessons worthy of our appreciation. China is geographically significant, vast and varied, with abundant resources. That geographical vastness has led to ethnic variety, with 56 nationalities, distinct in their customs and traditions.

In Dulwich College the teachers work alongside the students to explore these unique characteristics.

From Year 3 students performing Peking Opera, to the powerful bamboo dance of Year 5 students; from Year 2 students using their cute voices to interpret the Sanzi Jing, “Three Character Classic,” to Year 9 students beautifully reciting “When will the moon be?” — Dulwich College has always believed a deeper understanding of China should be one of the fundamental lenses through which students can view and understand the world.

Many of our students are ethnically Chinese, despite coming from other parts of the world. We understand for them that Mandarin is their mother tongue, and the local context for them is their mother culture.

For these students, celebrating Chinese history and culture takes on special significance, as it nourishes their sense of self and ensures that regardless of where their learning journey will take them, they are confident and knowledgeable about their roots. This positive sense of identity then supports them to explore other languages and cultures.

 For students whose native language is not Chinese, understanding the local context is equally powerful. As German philosopher Humboldt stated, “every language contains a unique worldview.” For these students, learning Mandarin and understanding Chinese culture, customs and history will open a window for the students, which will help them know the world better.

How do we do it?

Close contact with the local community is integrated into our curriculum. Shanghai is one of the most developed economic and educational centers in China, and there are numerous museums for students to explore. The botanical gardens, zoos and farms are excellent places for students to understand local ecology and experience authentic Shanghai. We always try to make full use of our geographical advantage to provide students with a rich curriculum that integrates local context.

The annual Mid-Autumn Festival and Spring Festival celebrations are highlights of the Dulwich College calendar. In addition to experiencing traditional cultural activities, such as making lanterns, mooncakes, dumplings, guessing lantern riddles, Chinese dances and so on, we also invite the community to contribute to the richness of our Chinese celebrations. In the past, parents have gathered to showcase their Chinese cooking skills and presented a feast for teachers and students during the Spring Festival.

Our local context also provides an opportunity for reflection. At the annual Eco Camp, students from our Dulwich College family of schools learned about pH levels, then tested the water quality of the river at the entrance of the school, finding it to be at a “healthy” rating.

Year 11 students studied ancient Chinese clothing, food, housing and transportation, then compared these with modern-day equivalents and reflected on current social issues. In addition, Dulwich College students have established contact with a local school of migrant children and donated gift bags to support them. They helped to sell handicrafts made by the Hearts and Hands organization in Sichuan Province so the disabled and disadvantaged could continue their work.

We hope that by embedding local context into our curriculum our students will be able to understand the many facets of China, encouraging them to become sympathetic learners who make a difference.

Whether viewing China through the lens of understanding their native culture or learning Mandarin as a second language and understanding the culture of their host country, we firmly believe celebrating, understanding and reflecting on the local context will help our students to “Graduate Worldwise.”

What can you do?

• Encourage your children to read Chinese books or a Chinese culture-related book.

• Take them to the local bookstores and museums.

• Actively take your children to participate in some community activities, so that they can experience different aspects of the local community.

• Learn about Chinese culture and history, talk to your children about famous Chinese historical figures or historical stories, and ask your children what they think of them.

• Have a discussion with your children, asking them questions such as “what do you see and think?”

(This article is contributed by Amber Zhou, head of Mandarin and Rebecca Zhao, head of Primary Mandarin at Dulwich College Shanghai.)

Embracing culture of the East and the West

Students have the chance to make their own mooncakes using molds and play dough to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Exploring meaning behind Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, the one night of the year when the moon is at its fullest and brightest.

In the past, people would gather in courtyards to celebrate the harvest and make offerings to the moon. Today, people gather with friends and family to enjoy the view of the moon together. The festival is both a centuries-old Chinese holiday and an important one in modern Chinese culture.

The inclusion of cross-cultural learning experiences is an important aspect of the curriculum at Shanghai International Community School. Chinese-language acquisition team delivered creative cultural activities for students to take part in, understand, and celebrate the holiday last month.

Early-year students celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival with a full day of exploration activities.

They first inquired about the origin of the festival, learning about its history and the custom of worshipping the moon, through songs, dance and poetry. Students inquired into the shape of the moon through literature and observing mooncake designs. They then had the chance to make their own mooncakes using molds and play dough. Other activities included lantern making, archery and poetry reciting.

In their Chinese Culture lessons, lower school students learned about the origin, customs and meaning of the festival. Grades 1 students created some imaginative artwork, while Grades 2 and 3 tried their hands at making traditional Chinese fan. Grades 4 and 5 also participated by creating wonderful bookmarks to use in their future readings.

In the upper school, Mandarin classes were focused on learning about the history of the festival. Students had opportunities to explore the cultural traditions of our host nation through poetry, paintbrush calligraphy, as well as making colorful decorations and greeting cards.

(This article is contributed by Mikael Masson, communication officer at SCIS.)

Learning by immersing in Chinese culture at SSIS 

The best way to help students understand Chinese culture and local Shanghainese culture is to provide a platform for them to learn and allow students to participate in and experience a variety of cultural activities. By immersing in Chinese culture, students can understand it more profoundly and learn to appreciate and respect it.

SSIS’s Chinese Culture curriculum is unique, systematic and focused. The Chinese Department has edited and published its Chinese Culture textbooks with specific contents for grades K–12. The learning of Chinese language and culture is inseparable.

When students are learning about Chinese Culture — such as classical Chinese poetry, traditional Chinese festivals, opera, Chinese tea, calligraphy, Shanghai streets and shikumen (stone-gate houses) architecture, nursery rhymes, food and 24 solar terms — their Chinese comprehension and literacy ability is likewise improved.

Teachers use traditional Chinese festivals and SSIS’s annual Chinese Culture Week to build a platform for students to experience and demonstrate what they’ve learnt.

These activities include Chinese New Year celebration, Mid-Autumn Festival poems and songs, visiting elderly folks in the nursing homes to celebrate the Double Ninth Festival, participating in Shanghai longtang (alleyway) games, immersing in intangible cultural heritage like batik-printing, and visiting Shanghai’s ancient towns. In SSIS, you can experience Chinese culture everywhere.

(This article is contributed by Chen Yue Lin, director of Chinese Language and Culture at Shanghai Singapore International School.)

Embracing culture of the East and the West

Chen Yue Lin is director of Chinese Language and Culture at Shanghai Singapore International School.

Understanding local tradition

When it comes to China, especially in Shanghai, foreign students are always full of curiosity. China has a variety of important festivals and many representative traditional cultures, especially language, food, stories, songs and traditions. Wellington College International Shanghai shares all of these with its pupils and parents with great enthusiasm.

Our Chinese teachers prepare cultural activities and classroom games for pupils during the Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival every year. This helps to integrate the traditional culture of China and Shanghai into our education.

To help foreign pupils understand and experience the charm of China and Shanghai’s traditional culture, we organize a large-scale Spring Festival gala and temple fair every year. We also participate in a contest in which foreign children talk about Shanghai nursery rhymes, which has earned the love and praise of the community.

In 2020 we have faced many challenges due to COVID-19. Through it all we have been grateful to all of our foreign friends. China is also committed to helping more countries and people.

(This article is contributed by Juliet Zhu, who teaches Chinese at Wellington College International Shanghai.)

Embracing culture of the East and the West

Pupils at Wellington College International Shanghai make traditional Chinese desserts during class.

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