Could school pupils forge links with their Chinese counterparts and learn more about language and culture in the Far East?
That is what Mid Yell Junior High School’s head teacher Mark Lawson is attempting to find out in a week-long visit to Beijing.
Mr Lawson will join other head teachers from across Scotland in a “fact-finding mission” which will see them visit Chinese schools and learn more about China’s education system.
The trip is being funded by the Confucius Institute – a body which aims to promote Chinese language and culture, and support Chinese teaching internationally.
It was made possible by a so-called Confucius Project run through Strathclyde University, which seeks to develop greater links between Scotland and China.
Should the visit be successful it could pave the way for a Confucius classroom in the isles which will help children of primary and secondary ages learn Mandarin.
Mr Lawson said he was keen to be involved.
“For me it’s always interesting going to different educational establishments, wherever they are. I’ve always been interested in finding out more in terms of languages. The world is such a small place now compared with when I was in school. In the future the children from Shetland will probably have links with the other side of the world and to learn Mandarin is probably going to be, potentially, a very valuable thing for lots of young people. It’s looking at the future and seeing what we can do.
“In Scotland some local authorities already have what’s called Confucius class rooms, and that’s schools that lead and support the teaching of Mandarin language in their local authority areas.”
Mr Lawson said the trip would enable him to learn more about China’s educational system, and how schooling works over there.
“From my own personal point of view that’s a big part of it – how they operate and deliver education.
“If it was something we decided to be involved in, then the Confucius Institute would supply language assistance for teaching Chinese. It’s very much a fact finding thing at the moment.”