A signing ceremony, hosted by First Minister Peter Robinson MLA at Parliament Buildings today, attended by the Chinese Consul General for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mr Li Ruiyou, Junior Minister Jonathan Bell MLA and Ulster Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett, marked the official agreement.
The eight hubs are; Aquinas Grammar School, Belfast; Grosvenor Grammar School, Belfast; Lumen Christi College, Derry~Londonderry; St Columb’s College, Derry~Londonderry; Bangor Academy; Millburn Primary School, Coleraine; Downshire School, Carrickfergus and South West College, Enniskillen/Omagh/Dungannon.
The Confucius Institute Headquarters have funded 22 Chinese teachers and a Chinese Director, who will roll out lessons in Mandarin Chinese, cultural awareness programmes, events and conferences from their Hub schools across local communities and partner networks.
The classroom hubs will also work in partnership with a network of 111 other schools across the province to enable every pupil in Northern Ireland to have access to support for learning about Chinese language and culture.
University of Ulster Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard Barnett, said: “The Confucius Classroom programme offers an excellent opportunity for our young people to become familiar with the language and culture of one of the world’s greatest countries and a country that will play an increasingly important role in all of our lives in the years ahead.
“I am delighted that so many colleges and schools are joining us in this exciting initiative and thank the Chinese government and the Northern Ireland Executive for their support.
Professor PÃ³l Ã“ Dochartaigh, Ulster’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts, added: “This significant investment from China means that youngsters can study Chinese from primary school through to final degree. It is exciting, and I would pay particular tribute to our politicians in OFMDFM and to the Minister for Education for their support in making this happen.”
Peter Robinson, First Minister, said: “I am delighted to be launching the Confucius Classrooms on this significant day, which highlights the ever strengthening bonds of friendship, education, culture and commerce between Northern Ireland and China.”
Jonathan Bell MLA, Junior Minister, OFMDFM, added: “The Confucius Classrooms build upon the outstanding achievements of the Confucius Institute at the University of Ulster. I look forward to the educational and economic success between Northern Ireland and China which the Confucius Classrooms will make possible.”
Mr Li Ruiyou, Chinese Consul General, Edinburgh, said: “It is inspiring to learn that eight Confucius Classroom Hubs have been approved by the CI Headquarters in China. This latest achievement will undoubtedly further promote the teaching and learning of Chinese language and culture in Northern Ireland.
“This, I am sure, will bring the people of Northern Ireland and China closer together and lead to a better understanding of one another. This will also help build a more solid foundation for co-operation in education, culture, science, technology and business between our two nations for mutual benefits.”
Mr Shen Yang, Minister Counsellor of Education, Chinese Embassy, UK, said: “Please accept my congratulations to CIUU and the concerned schools on the establishment of eight Confucius Classroom Hubs in Northern Ireland.
“This marks another milestone in educational and cultural links between China and Northern Ireland and will undoubtedly further promote the teaching and learning of Chinese language and culture in Northern Ireland.
“I hope that this will help young people from across Northern Ireland to better understand the Chinese culture and to make friends with their peers in China.”
The Confucius Institute at the University of Ulster was officially opened by China’s most senior female politician Madame Liu Yandong, in April 2012.
Its aim is to develop academic, cultural, economic and social ties between the two countries.The institute operates in partnership with the Zhejiang University of Media and Communications in south-eastern China, and is grateful for the support of the Education Department in Hubei Province, P.R.China, and the Department for Education in Northern Ireland.