News / USA

Beijing Helps US Students Learn Chinese

Confucius Classroom program brings Chinese teachers to America

Zheng Ling is one of two Mandarin teachers at St. Mary's School in Medford, Oregon.
Zheng Ling is one of two Mandarin teachers at St. Mary's School in Medford, Oregon.

Multimedia

Audio
Chris Lehman

A visit to a Chicago high school was on the agenda as Chinese President Hu Jintao wrapped up his visit to the United States. Walter Payton College Preparatory High School is one of dozens in the U.S. that offers Chinese language and cultural instruction through a program called "Confucius Classrooms," which is partially funded by the Beijing government.

The first U.S. school to take part in the program was St. Mary's School in Medford, Oregon, where an 11th-grade class is running through a list of words for traditional Chinese instruments. The 16 and 17-year-olds are in their fourth year of learning Mandarin Chinese. 

Popular choice

Carly Irvine is not sure when she'll use her Chinese language skills outside the classroom. But she figures that day will come. "Since China and America are working so closely and our relationship is growing more and more," she says. "I think it will be very important in the future to know Chinese."

Confucius classroom is expanding rapidly around the world. St. Mary's added Mandarin to its foreign language curriculum in 2005, and three years ago, became the first school in the country to sign up for the Confucius Classroom program.

Here's how it works: The Chinese ministry of education sends a teacher to a school in the United States, pays about half of that teacher's salary and living expenses, and supplies educational materials such as books and computer programs.

Confucius classroom, a program from the Chinese government aimed at teaching high school students Chinese culture and language, is expanding rapidly around the world.
Confucius classroom, a program from the Chinese government aimed at teaching high school students Chinese culture and language, is expanding rapidly around the world.

St. Mary's principal, Frank Phillips, says some parents of students at the private college-prep school were skeptical at first.

"It was so off-beat and weird then," says Phillips. "We got a lot of feedback from parents, 'Why would you teach Chinese off all things? Why not Spanish?'" St. Mary's does offer Spanish, along with German and Latin. But Phillips says knowing Chinese will give his students an advantage in a world where China is fast becoming a global economic superpower.

Lingering questions

The idea of accepting money from the government in Beijing raised eyebrows in his southern Oregon community.

"The question I always get is, 'Is this a gigantic propaganda move, is this an evil Communist plot on the part of China?'' says Phillips. "That's the number one kind of lingering Cold War suspicion about this program. From what I can detect, having been involved in it for two years, I see none of that."

In fact, the Chinese language education program has the support of the community's representative in the state legislature as well as the attention of neighboring public school districts. Nearby Ashland High School looked to St. Mary's for assistance in bringing a teacher from China to teach Mandarin. A hundred students signed up for the course.

Ashland superintendent Juli Di Chiro says the skills they're learning will be valuable if, as many advocates of teaching Mandarin say, China plays an even bigger role on the global stage in the future.

"Obviously kids mastering a second language, whatever that language is, is important," says Di Chiro. "But just given the changes in what's going on globally with China, I think it's important that our students have an opportunity to study the language and culture of China as well."

Chinese expansion

Chiro says the school hopes to bring in a second teacher next year so that even more students can take the classes. Ashland officials are even inviting about two dozen Chinese teenagers to come study at the school. The goal is to give Ashland students the chance to experience diversity.

"For our students to be able to be comfortable in multi-ethnic, multi-cultural situations which will be their worlds as they're entering the work force, we have to figure out ways of kind of making that happen," says Di Chiro.

The Confucius Classroom program is expanding elsewhere, too. The program is now offered in more than 50 other schools and universities across the United States and around the world, in more than three dozen countries including Argentina, Pakistan, Kenya and Russia.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More