Taipei, Sept. 16 (CNA) A high school in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has put Mandarin language classes on its curriculum for first-year students, in a program initiated by the country’s Ambassador to Taiwan Andrea Bowman and supported by the Taiwan government.

At the start of the new academic year on Sept. 7, the St. Vincent Girls’ High School (GHS) added Mandarin classes to its curriculum, scheduling two periods per week for each of its four first-year classes, Bowman said Tuesday.

Approximately 130 students are currently taking the classes, which are being taught by a teacher provided and remunerated by the Taiwan government through its technical mission in SVG, Bowman told CNA.

“The broad curricular plan is to introduce the students to the history and culture (of Taiwan) in order to contextualize an introductory language course,” said Bowman, a former educator who served as GHS principal for 13 years.

In a Facebook post Monday, the Taiwan Technical Mission in SVG said that on the first day of Mandarin classes, the GHS students were excited to be given Chinese names.

“They not just learned how to introduce themselves, but also some classroom phrases,” the mission said in the post, which was accompanied by photos of the students and teacher.

“They can even sing a Chinese song within an hour! Well done!! Perhaps soon the same song will be spread along the streets in Saint Vincent!”

According to Bowman, the idea for the Mandarin classes was proposed by a GHS alumnus who was studying at a Taiwan university and graduated this year under Taiwan’s scholarship program for its diplomatic allies.

“Zuleika Lewis planted the idea, and our embassy then contacted the GHS headmistress and its Foreign Languages department,” Bowman said. “This was then followed by our embassy’s outreach to the Ministry of Education in SVG and the Taiwanese embassy in SVG. The headmistress, Michelle Beache, embraced the idea right away and worked towards its realization.”

Bowman said that within the context of SVG-Taiwan relations, the benefits and potential of the Mandarin language program are boundless.

“A country’s language carries its culture,” she said. “Therefore the cultural exchange through language automatically deepens our 39 years of diplomatic relations.”

The Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is considered one of Taiwan’s strongest allies, having maintained unbroken diplomatic ties since 1981.

(By Peggy Carr), Enditem/AW

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