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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.