Year 2 student Bronte Casson is in Nicholls but her teacher is in Beijing. She is on a live webcam call with the rest of her class, taking their weekly lesson in the Chinese language.
The program is run by Tom Shuggs, of My Education Group, which links Australian schools with Chinese teachers. Two Canberra schools, Holy Spirit Primary in Nicholls, and St Francis of Assisi Primary in Calwell, are using his company in their language classes.
Holy Spirit students learn from Cong Fei Fei, who speaks with them from Beijing for the half-hour lessons.
Mr Shuggs said there was a huge benefit in engaging with a native speaker, and by using a webcam, the students were “inherently excited”.
He had received “overwhelmingly positive feedback” from both students and teachers, with even the teachers themselves learning Chinese.
Mr Shuggs co-founded the program with Sam Dean in 2012, and started with just 100 students in the first year. It had taken off dramatically, now also in New Zealand, Britain and the US, teaching Chinese to more than 18,000 students.
Mr Shuggs said he used to struggle to learn languages himself but was now fluent in Chinese, which inspired him to begin the program. He had since lived in Beijing for a decade.
The Canberra Times, 27 May 2018