Edinburgh Local

Scotland-China education in East Lothian

An innovative programme to teach Mandarin in East Lothian schools has now been adopted by other local authorities

Pupils showing off their talents
Pupils showing off their talents

The University of Edinburgh is home to more than 3,000 Chinese students.  Many of them want to get to know Scotland and its people better and also want to contribute in whatever way they can. 

The Scotland-China Education Network (SCEN), convened by former headteacher Dr Judith McClure, recognised the potential and teamed up with Edinburgh University Students’ Association to see if the students’ aspirations could be met.

Working with SCEN Deputy Chair Simon Macaulay, who chaired the Scottish National Working Group on Languages which produced the 1+2 Languages Plan for primary schools, Dr McClure designed the East Lothian Learning of Chinese Programme. 

It uses the commitment and talent of our Chinese students to encourage pupils to learn about China and its language.  At the same time, it broadens students’ knowledge and awareness of life in Scotland.

The students spent one session per week in an East Lothian primary school where they support the class teacher in introducing Chinese cultural activities and language.  They are all volunteers, and only get their bus fares paid, but they receive training from the Students’ Association, and also get a certificate and references.  They enjoy meeting ‘real’ Scots and getting an insight into our way of life.

SCEN believes that its partnership with Edinburgh University Students’ Association has produced a mutually beneficial model which provides international students with opportunities which are also of great value to the local community.

Dr Judith McClure, Chair of Scotland-China Education Network

The pupils loved the programme and special events were held to celebrate their learning.  Parents at the schools were very supportive and pleased by these opportunities for their children, and education officers at East Lothian Council were delighted with the children’s progress.

The programme was evaluated regularly by Simon Macaulay and by a member of HM Inspectors of Education in Scotland who had been the National Languages Specialist, as well as by the Confucius Institute for Scotland's Schools.

The result is that Mandarin has been introduced into two secondary schools in East Lothian, supported by a full-time, registered teacher of Chinese paid for by the Swire Edinburgh Chinese Centre of Excellence. The model is now being used in other local authorities.


Find out more

SCEN website