Oregon schools weigh Mandarin program

By Paul Welitzkin in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2016-12-30 12:10

A public school district in Oregon will consider adding a Mandarin immersion program next year to its existing offerings in French, Japanese and Spanish.

Officials in the Eugene School District unveiled plans for Mandarin instruction - that would begin at the elementary school level and eventually expand to the high schools - at a school board meeting earlier this month.

"The school district has a long and proud tradition of offering language immersion programs for students," Charis McGaughy, the district's assistant superintendent for instruction, said. "The addition of Mandarin Chinese would strengthen the district's commitment to creating productive global citizens. The ability to be bilingual in Mandarin Chinese and English, in particular, will enable our students innumerable opportunities."

The goal of the Eugene district's immersion program is to produce students who are bilingual - in the immersion language and English. Eugene, located about two hours south of Portland, has a population of nearly 160,000 and is home to the University of Oregon.

Oregon schools weigh Mandarin program

"The proposed program will begin with a kindergarten and first grade classroom with about 30 students in each. The district will then add one grade per year, until a full kindergarten-through-grade-12 program is established. Depending on future interest, the district could expand the program by adding another class at each grade level," said McGaughy.

According to a report in the Register-Guard, start-up costs for the Mandarin program will be about $221,000 in the 2017-18 school year, mostly for salaries. The district plans to recruit University of Oregon and other state college graduates for the program.

"We hope to be able to hire locally. We are fortunate to have a university in our community, and several others around the state of Oregon, to be able to attract strong and qualified teaching candidates," McGaughy said.

She said there are 76 students in the Eugene district whose home language is either Mandarin or Cantonese.

McGaughy said the Chinese community in Eugene has been supportive of the Mandarin proposal. "They have been the biggest advocates for this immersion program. We look forward to a strong partnership with the community to offer culturally rich experiences for our students," she said.

The school board is expected to consider the Mandarin proposal in 2017.

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