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Matamata Intermediate School teacher Stephanie Gollan reflects on developing the school’s languages and cultures subject.

This article follows the learning story Introducing languages and cultures at Matamata Intermediate School.

Initial motivation for developing the global connections subject at Matamata Intermediate School stemmed from a Chinese school exchange planned for 2020. The school was already experienced in hosting Japanese schools over many decades. The hope was for students from Matamata Intermediate School to interact face to face with learners and teachers from China. Sadly, the impact of COVID-19 meant international travel was not possible and the group from China could not travel to New Zealand. 

This setback did not mean the end of the languages and cultures initiative. Stephanie was supported by the school leadership to continue developing the Chinese and Japanese language learning programme.

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Stephanie’s intent for the programme was to help students see where they fitted in to the world and to explore their own beliefs and values before looking for similarities in the beliefs and values of others. She began to develop students’ understanding around the ways different cultures do and know. She soon realised that students were beginning to demonstrate “an understanding of others that you can't really get unless you experience another culture”.

In 2021, the school’s Senior Leadership Team renamed the subject Global Connections. With school reporting expectations in mind, discussion took place around assessing students through the languages, social sciences and arts curriculums. Assessing through the languages curriculum would have seen all students recorded at level 1 of the curriculum and would have missed some of the nuance of what students had learned. Eventually, with guidance from Specialist Team Leader Karen Raymond, Stephanie decided to link students’ learning to the visual arts curriculum. By focussing on the Understanding in Context strand, reporting against levels 1 through to early level 5 best suited her direction for assessment.

Looking ahead

When designing learning experiences now, Stephanie looks to include digital learning experiences through Google Classroom and has recently introduced Flipgrid as a tool. She has begun to explore Learn English Live and is making plans for a series of digital exchanges between Matamata Intermediate School and schools in Japan.

In 2021, Matamata Intermediate School repurposed an existing room for the Global Connections subject called the Culture Room. The school was also awarded a grant of $10,000 through Tui Tuia Learning Circle. The grant will support Stephanie’s planning to expand the learning experiences for the students.

Key takeaways from Stephanie’s story

  • If you have a passion for something, get school leadership on board.

  • Know your why.

  • Start small and grow with it – look for cross-curricular connections.

  • Create a dedicated space for learning.

  • Seek external PLD and funding.


What opportunities might there be for introducing an international language in your school?

What common understandings are there in your school about the concepts of global identity and global connections?

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