26 November 2015 at 9:00 am

Farm Cove Intermediate and Luoyang International School: Sister Schools

Principal Linda Harvie shares ideas and insights gained from her school’s international programme and recent experience fostering a sister school relationship in China.


International education a priority

At Farm Cove Intermediate (FCI) international education goals are included in our strategic documentation, as this is an area of high priority.  We recognise the importance of our FCI community becoming Asia-equipped with our Asian neighbours now such a significant part of our lives. However, our FCI links with Asia go far beyond obligation and responsibility as we get so much enjoyment from sharing with both students and teachers from other cultures.  Since our first group arrived from Japan 27 years ago, we have experienced the enormous value of celebrating cultural diversity through our hosting of international students from Asia.

Sister School relationship established

We’ve particularly enjoyed hosting students and teachers from our sister school, Luoyang International School (LYIS), which is in Luoyang City, Henan Province, China.  Our relationship with LYIS began with a surprise email from their Principal, Jason Tsai, in 2012.  He had visited our school when he was working in Auckland several years ago.  His aim was to connect with an Auckland school and he believed that we would be a good fit to host a group of his students for short visit. We learnt that LYIS was four schools in one, from pre-school to college, and that students boarded five nights a week.  This modern school of 2500 students was built only four years ago and has a focus on English language learning and using a variety of teaching methodologies.  Our planning all came together and, in less than a year, 15 students arrived for a four week stay, accompanied by the principal and a teacher.  The teacher spent her time working alongside our teachers, while the students mixed freely with their classmates and quickly became part of our school.  The visit went so well that they visited us again in 2014, when we signed a sister school agreement to further promote teacher and student exchange and broaden our educational horizons by adding a global perspective. We agreed to join hands as sister schools and seek opportunities for purposeful, genuine and authentic communication.



Collaborative Poetry- a challenge but fun. Students were given Chinese names by the students.

Sister school visit enabled

After an initial scoping visit by four FCI teachers to LYIS, and with the blessing from our Board of Trustees we decided to take a group from FCI to China. Support from ENZ’s New Zealand China Sister Schools Fund enabled us to take two teachers on the visit.

The trip far exceeded our expectations.  It provided amazing opportunities, was so much fun and changed us all.  There were many high fives, welcome to China hugs, hand-made gifts and songs sung as we mixed with the LYIS students.  They had spent months preparing for us.  We enjoyed lessons in practical science, calligraphy, Chinese music, English, Mandarin and physical education.  A night in homestays allowed our students to get a glimpse into Chinese life; the food was really yummy and the excursions to local points of interest were truly memorable.

Our trip to LYIS really advanced our sister school relationship.  We have developed life-long friends and deepened our understanding of Chinese culture and the Mandarin language.  Our learning flowed out across our school and the wider community, as we shared our daily experiences through social media while we were on the road, and presented to our whole school on our return.  

Relationship set to grow

Planning is underway for a group from LYIS to visit us, and for a larger group from FCI to return to Luoyang in 2017. Short-term teacher exchanges are also being discussed.


Students greatly enjoyed learning the art of calligraphy.

Tips and insights

If you’re thinking of establishing a sister school relationship in China, here are some things to consider.

  • Do you have the support of your school community for such a venture – including your Boards of Trustees, teachers, parents and the students?  You will need all of these stakeholders to support a successful relationship.

  • Are there good lines of communication between the school in China, or their agent, and your school?  This is essential, so that clear understandings and expectations are established and the potential for any misunderstandings minimised. 

  • How easy is it to travel to the Chinese school from New Zealand and for them to travel to you, and how long will it take to complete the journey? China is vast, and it can take three or more flights plus a lengthy train or coach trip to get to some districts. 

  • How much will it cost each participant?  The cost for families to send their child on the trip, plus the cost of sending the teachers, needs to be calculated. It is important that the group has a clear understanding of what is and is not covered by the trip budget.

  • What sort of preparation is required by students, teachers and parents? Good preparation – especially on the part of the students – is a critical factor as it underpins the success of the trip.  You can support the preparation for Chinese students to come to you by sharing facts, photos, videos and links through social media.  At FCI we put a lot of emphasis on teaching our students to be excellent hosts.  In our experience, students travelling to Chinese schools take about ten weeks of lessons and three family meetings to gain the knowledge and skills that will enable them to have a positive experience.

  • Will your students feel comfortable in the Chinese school environment and vice versa?  China is a very different culture, even more so as you get away from the big cities. Similarly, life in your community is likely to be a totally new experience for the Chinese student.  It is our view that children need to experience cultural differences, but not be challenged to the point where they are overwhelmed. 

  • What does the district around your school and their school offer which would be of interest for the students?  Visiting special points of interest in the local district adds significantly to the experience for the students.

We really value our sister school relationship with LYIS in China.  By hosting them twice and visiting with both a staff group and later with a student group, we are recognising more and more similarities between our cultures, and learning to appreciate the differences.  Future exchanges will allow us to have more fun, too, as we develop an even greater understanding of one another.

We are very much looking forward to FCI LYIS China Trip 2017.

Linda Harvie, Principal - Farm Cove Intermediate School

What's in it for me?