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Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (SCILT)

More than 100 schoolchildren from across Scotland will be travelling to China in 2022 to learn about the language and culture there thanks to a grant of almost £286,000 from the Turing Scheme.
CISS China immersion programme, two students on bike and cart

SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, based at the University of Strathclyde, secured the funding for the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS) immersion programme, which is co-located with them at the university.

CISS operates a network of Confucius Classrooms and provides a hub in one primary school and one secondary school in 23 local authority areas across Scotland. The scheme also facilitates Chinese master’s degree students to work as exchange teachers in these schools.

Pupil immersion visits to China have been running for many years as part of the programme for fourth and fifth year pupils in secondary schools from local authorities with a Confucius Classroom Hub.

In 2022 Turing Scheme funding will mean that students who might not normally be able to take advantage of the opportunity will have the chance to take part. The participants will attend a summer camp organised by the Tianjin Municipal Education Commission. The learning outcomes are accredited by the Scottish Qualification Authority as the Chinese Bridge Award.

Using Turing Scheme funding

“The idea is to use Turing Scheme funding to support learners from our hub network to visit China and have an international experience,” said Lisa Hanna, Deputy Director at CISS.

“The pupil immersion experience is an experience that runs throughout the school year. The Turing Scheme allows us to continue and develop that experience.

“We work with schools early on in the year to identify the pupils who will take part in the mobility. We expect that they will undertake a minimum of 10 hours of Mandarin learning.”

Participant selection and widening access

The processes put in place by CISS to identify participants have focused on allowing schools to select the learners who best meet the criteria and who will most benefit from the life-changing opportunity.

“A substantial part of our application to the Turing Scheme was the idea that we wanted to widen access for learners who come from a more socio-economically disadvantaged background so that there is no barrier to them participating in an opportunity like this. Turing Scheme funding will provide parity of access,” said Lisa.

Fhiona Mackay, Director, at CISS said: “We work closely with our schools who know their learners best. A lot of youngsters who take part have already studied a substantial amount of Mandarin. Many already have a qualification.

“We focus on narrowing the gap. Having outward mobility does that in so many ways, raising aspiration, widening horizons, especially the way we use it, linked to accredited learning. This can give an extra boost to their CV and a push towards higher education.”

In China

The CISS programme provides a varied schedule for those taking part. They plan a mix of sporting, cultural, sightseeing and language learning activities with Chinese partners inputting into preparation which starts well ahead of the trip.

“There is a lot of work preparing the teachers so they can support the young people in the best possible way,” said Lisa. “We are fine with cultural surprises, but we don’t want culture shocks.”

In China, the students also spend a full day in the company of a Chinese family on a one-to-one basis. This furthers their immersion and allows them to share in a slice of daily life and meet a range of generations of Chinese people.

After China

As well as the direct benefits to those taking part the programme offers further benefits to the families involved and the school community by providing accessible, inspirational examples to others.

Accompanying staff are not necessarily language teachers and they are encouraged to take part in the language classes alongside their students. For some of the staff, it is their first time leading a visit, so it also offers them a career development opportunity and a chance to network with other schools in the local education authority area.

“It is these unique experiences that make schools work a little bit harder and be more creative,” said Fhiona. “This is truly a school-to-school experience.”

Depending on COVID-19 related travel restrictions, CISS hopes to facilitate the immersion trips during the summer of 2022.

Find out more about the Turing Scheme opportunities available to schools on our dedicated webpage.