Learning to keep pace with China

5th December 2008 at 00:00
Pupils need to understand the impact this super power will have on them when they reach adulthood. Elizabeth Buie reports

China will become the most important world power of the 21st century and young Scots will inevitably be touched by it as they reach adulthood, the chair of the Scotland China Education Network told the first national conference on the "Teaching of China" in Scottish schools.

As the Scottish curriculum undergoes a complete renewal to equip young people for the coming challenges, pupils should be given the opportunity to learn about China, said Judith McClure, head of St George's School in Edinburgh and chair of SCEN.

Her message was reinforced by Mairi Timmons, HMIE's national specialist in modern studies, who told teachers that international education and teaching about China across the curriculum could help young people to meet the "responsible citizens" goal of A Curriculum for Excellence.

China would soon become the number one English-speaking country in the world, Ms Timmons told the conference. With 1.3 billion people - a fifth of the world's population - and the fastest growing economy, China's influence had to be recognised.

"How can we help young people develop their knowledge about Scotland's position in the world stage without including China?" she asked.

That meant encouraging more young people to acquire new languages, such as Mandarin and Cantonese, and to learn about its rich culture, history, music and art.

With the draft social studies outcomes in mind, she suggested that teachers in primary could focus on China when comparing the lifestyles and cultures in another country with those of Scotland.

At the S1-3 stage, teachers could use China as an example when analysing rights and responsibilities and developing pupils' critical and evaluative skills when looking at people's place in their environment. They could contrast the economic activity in different landscapes, comparing China and Scotland, Ms Timmons proposed.

In recent years, there had been a "slight dip" in modern studies in the contrasting of ideologies. Again, the study of China could remedy this.

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