The following message on the inclusion of Mandarin Chinese in the proposed Strategic Plan is shared by Jane Drennan, Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning.
The rationale for teaching Mandarin Chinese to all students is multifaceted. The first is the research surrounding improved learning for students who study a second language. The United States is one of the few countries in the world that does not incorporate second-language study from an early age when it is most critical. Enhanced learning skills for all students is the goal of “The Macon Miracle.” In order to be college ready our students will have a tremendous advantage if they begin their study of Mandarin Chinese early and can achieve an understanding of a culture other than their own, be bilingual, and even have opportunities as high school students to travel to internationally.
The second reason it is important to study Mandarin, is to assure that our students are competitive in the 21st century global economy. We are preparing students for a different world than previous generations and it is our combined responsibility to see to it that they have the educational background that will be required for success. Many school districts in the country are offering Mandarin for this very reason. This does not hinder teaching of core subjects in any way and should not be seen as less learning but enhanced learning, which is better for all children.
The other question related to teaching of Mandarin Chinese in Bibb County is why use the Confucius Institute? The work that would be needed to achieve the goal of the Strategic Plan would be realized through collaboration with Kennesaw State University, in Kennesaw, Ga., where there is a Confucius Institute. The Kennesaw Confucius Institute currently works in Hall County, Ga., and Whitfield County, Ga., as well as the Georgia Virtual School. Having visited numerous classrooms in Hall County, it was very exciting to observe the high-level learning that was taking place with the children in these classrooms. They were very actively engaged, highly motivated, and the instruction was of excellent quality. The students were taught simple language skills, vocabulary, and writing through similar strategies used in most U.S. classrooms. They used singing and games as well as repetition to learn simple words and phrases. Pictures with Chinese characters were posted throughout the classrooms and the school.
Several other advantages related to the collaboration with Kennesaw’s Confucius Institute is that high school students who attain a specific level of language understanding may have opportunities for summer exchange experiences in China at no cost to the district or parents. These students may also, if they pass the required testing standards, be able to attain a college education in China at no cost. That is not a specific goal of “The Macon Miracle” but certainly may provide future opportunities for students who may in their future wish to enhance their job prospects by knowing the Chinese culture and language.
There are currently 272 other colleges and universities in the country associated with Confucius and achieving great success in their endeavors. The use of Chinese teachers from China does not replace any of our teachers and comes at a lower cost so there is also an economic benefit without a loss of jobs to the Bibb County Public Schools.