Second language programs have been a staple in schools for decades. Students in high school, middle school and even elementary school have long been able to take classes to learn languages like Spanish, French and German. However, a recent trend has schools around the country placing an increased focus on teaching students Mandarin Chinese.
“If you are going to get around in the world, you are going to need to speak Chinese. It’s a language everyone is going to be speaking,” aviation consultant Mike Boyd, who studies Mandarin for one intense hour a week at the Colorado Chinese Language Center in Denver, said to The Denver Post.
Amanda Sauer, a principal at Erie Elementary, explained to The Denver Post that her school district embraced the trend and has placed an increased emphasis on students learning Mandarin.
“Our district looked at how to prepare kids for 21st-century jobs – to help them have a global view,” Sauer said.
She explained that students in kindergarten through second grade at Erie Elementary start off by learning Chinese culture. They then move toward more language studies in the third grade, also learning to write characters.
Students are then given the opportunity to choose whether they would like to continue their mandarin studies into middle school and high school.
Language programs like this have recently popped up in other areas like Texas and Utah as well.
Recently, Davis County School District in Utah was named a Confucius Institute from the Confucius Institute headquartered in Beijing. With it, they received a grant of almost $800,000 that will allow them to bolster their programs, while investing in new education technologies.
The program has garnered tremendous support from parents, becoming very popular among students.
“Our parents have been unusually supportive of the program, as they ensure Chinese stays at their schools,” Bonnie Flint, the district’s Secondary World Language supervisor said to The Standard-Examiner. “They see this as the language of the future for kids going into science, engineering, technology and math. Our parents get that we can’t really prepare [students] for the 21st century if they don’t have those skills of being bilingual and bi-cultural.”
Over the past decade, Chinese has become increasingly popular in schools, with schools implementing programs around the country. In 2007, junior high and high schools 東京樓盤 saw a 100 percent increase in programs made available, and the College Board offered Mandarin Advanced Placement exams for the first time. This has only grown since then.
This increase in Chinese language programs can be attributed to China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse over the past couple of decades.
“Chinese isn’t the new French – it’s the new English,” Robert Davis, director of the Chinese-language program in Chicago’s public school system said in a 2007 USA Today article. “It’s not romantic. It’s not because you’re going to have a great time in Paris. It’s pragmatic.”
In spite of this new-found popularity, some are worried about these programs, especially ones that become funded through Chinese organizations. Some experts worry that the programs could become public relations campaigns for a government that is notorious for violating human rights.
“You don’t want other countries propagandizing your children,” political science professor June Teufel Dreyer of the University of Miami said to ABC News.
Teachers, however, maintain that they are in complete control of the curriculum provided to students.
“I can tell you that we are very much in charge of the curriculum that is delivered in our classroom,” Romain Dallemand, Bibb County Schools Superintendent in Georgia told ABC News. “We have all the curriculum that they deliver.”
In spite of criticisms, schools continue to provide the programs to students. Schools in Houston are also looking to implement more Chinese language programs, and provide language immersion programs as well.