This week we are speaking to Katharine Carruthers, the IOE Confucius Institute Director & UCL Pro-Vice-Provost for East Asia, about the upcoming 19th Annual Chinese Teaching Conference on this Saturday 12th November. Katharine will be speaking at the opening plenary: ‘Be the Change through Co-Learning ‘at our Conference.

1. Katharine, can you tell us a little bit about what’s been happening with Chinese teaching and learning since the last conference?

The last conference was the first time all of us had seen each other in a long time. Since then, we have gradually had school visits, meetings, teacher training back face to face again and therefore been able to rebuild the wonderfully positive feeling of the Chinese teachers’ network. Teachers have done a tremendous job on catch-up for learners; I know there was a lot to do. Chinese learners have remained remarkably positive, despite the challenges during Covid, and achieved some excellent exam results in the summer as well!

2. What can we look forward to in the year ahead for Chinese teaching and learning?

If last year was about recalibrating, this year is about moving forward. You will see that the conference theme is ‘Be the Change’! We have a series of teacher training workshops ‘Planning for Progression’, which are designed to support teachers to plan for success and utilise time strategically throughout Years 8 and 9 in particular, so that more students choose GCSE Chinese as an option and that our students are even better prepared for KS4. We can also look forward to more Early Career Mandarin teachers and Teacher Researchers being supported through our training programmes too. We are committed to developing our own research base and in particular to exploring the cognitive benefits of learning Mandarin, in collaboration with academics at the IOE. We hope to revise our textbooks and to work on a curriculum for Chinese contemporary culture-related input into KS3/4 and 5 Schemes of work.

3. The MEP has continued to grow this past year, and we have several MEP teachers presenting at the conference this year. What are some of the things you are most proud of regarding this programme?

Difficult to know where to start with this question; I’ll try to be brief. The teachers, learners and Headteachers of the 79 MEP schools have all remained fantastically committed throughout the pandemic. We are very proud of their achievements in schools up and down the country. In particular, perhaps, I could highlight the virtual intensive learning for Year 9. This was a 2-week online course in collaboration with 16 universities across China and supported by the British Council, the IOE and Centre for Language Education and Cooperation in China.  The students engaged with Chinese lessons (lots of ‘new’ colloquial words and internet slang were very popular), but also virtual visits and interactions with Chinese young people working with them on specific tasks. As part of the evaluation of the programme, we engaged in some team ethnography and had interviews with a range of individual students. They had clearly gained a great deal from the programme and talked to us with such maturity about a range of insightful ideas and observations, despite being sat in their rather warm classrooms at the beginning of July.

4. The theme for the conference this year is “Be the Change”- how do you think teachers can take this message back to their schools, their departments, and their classrooms?

I think ‘Be the Change’ reflects the idea that you can attend any of the workshops and there’ll be ideas for you to take back and implement during this academic year. You can make a difference. The plenary speakers’ talks on co-learning, on intercultural learning and on ancient Chinese philosophy and contemporary cross-cultural dialogue are designed to inspire beyond the immediate classroom curriculum and stimulate thoughts about your role and that of your learners and what you might develop. Our learners will eventually be going out into the world to take forward this cross-cultural and linguistic dialogue with their peers in China!

Thank you, Katharine!

We look forward to welcoming ticketholders to Katharine’s plenary on Saturday 12th November at the IOE.