Case Study: China

Date Posted: 15/03/2013

School: Queen’s School, Chester
Number of pupils: 20
KS: 3

Students from The Queen’s School in Chester have recently returned from the trip of a lifetime to China, where they experienced everything from bartering in the local market to climbing parts of the Great Wall of China.

A group of 20 girls from Year 9 and Year 10 took part in the educational and cultural trip, escorted by three members of staff from the school. The trip was organised by IOE, the Institute of Education in London and its Chinese partner Hanban, the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. The students paid for their own airfare to China but the cost of everything else, along with the detailed planning of activities, was taken care of by Hanban.

Girls at The Queen’s School learn Mandarin from Year 7, with opportunities available at the Lower School too. The school has been designated an Advanced Confucius Classroom by Hanban. There are around 34 Confucius Classrooms in total across the UK.

Lucy Whittam teaches Mandarin at the school and escorted the girls on the trip. She explained how it all worked: “Hanban sort out all the internal travel within China, the accommodation and food, language and culture lessons, and sightseeing tours.

“We took three teachers so we were well staffed but Hanban also helped out by providing volunteers for each group so we were never short of helping hands. You don’t have to speak Mandarin as all the trip organisers spoke fluent English and they really went out of their way to make you feel at home and welcome - really, nothing was too much trouble.”

This attention to detail was one of the things that Lucy says made the trip such a success and meant they squeezed so much into the 12 days. As part of the tour, the girls learnt how to barter at the famous Silk Market in Beijing, visited the world-famous Beijing Zoo, saw the Great Wall of China and had an excursion to the ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium, made famous during the 2008 Olympic Games.

The students not only saw the sights in the capital, but also the historic city of Changzhou. They got to know what life was like at a Chinese school, where they were based for much of the trip, and visited a traditional family home as part of their stay.

While in Changzhou, the girls were treated with a trip to the Dinosaur Theme Park, home to a host of thrilling rides. They also found out how traditional Chinese dumplings were made at a dumpling factory, and toured some of the most spectacular temples in the country, including the Tianning Temple in Changzhou, which is reportedly one of the largest Zen Buddhist temples and monasteries in China.

“We were helped and escorted from the minute we landed,” Lucy said. “The attention to detail started at the airport and continued for the whole trip, and meant that we - as teachers - were able to engage and enjoy the trip much more.”

It took a while for the girls to get used to being the centre of attention. Emily McBurney, a Year 9 pupil, said: “Pretty much from the minute we arrived, everyone wanted to take photos of us because we looked so different and our hair was so different. They would always be checking to see if we were ok and if we needed any help. They were very friendly but I wasn’t expecting them to fuss over us as much. A lot of the girls were intrigued by us, I suppose.”

Lucy confirmed: “I think the girls felt a bit like celebrities at times!”

The Queen’s girls had been told in their lessons back in the UK how China is home to a huge 1.3 billion people. However, visiting the country gave them a new appreciation of what this really means. Year 10 pupil Amy Lewis explained: “Compared even to somewhere like London, there were just people everywhere, filling the streets and shops and markets and temples. The traffic too, looked as though it was just going everywhere.”

Even in school the girls got a sense of the scale of things. The High School where they were based accommodates nearly 3,000 students, most of whom board weekly. There was a strict routine: wake-up call at 6am, lessons until 6pm with a long morning break including organised outdoor exercise and a long lunch, also incorporating exercise. Following afternoon lessons and dinner, pupils then head to the library to complete their homework before lights out at 10pm. They go home at the weekends but still receive more than ten hours of homework to complete by Monday.

It was all a world away from the nurturing, family atmosphere the students are used to at their own school and, after 12 days, the girls were pretty exhausted by the exciting pace of it all. The trip was an experience that they will remember forever.

Useful contact:

Hanban (UK representative):

School Travel Organiser's Guide