West Virginia was chosen to host three of 40 Chinese teachers who will bring their native language and culture to U.S. schools. The expansion of Chinese into West Virginia schools is part of the state Department of Education’s effort to promote global awareness and 21st Century Learning.
“Providing our children with the opportunity to understand the Chinese language and culture will give them a better chance of succeeding in today’s global economy,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine said. “We have to face the future if our children are to be competitive. Rest assured China will be part of that future.”
The teachers are in the United States as part of the Chinese Guest Teacher Program through the College Board, which administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test and Advanced Placement exams. Former West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton, who heads the College Board, announced last spring a plan that would place 250 Chinese teachers in U.S. classrooms during the next three years. The three in West Virginia are among the first group.
With China poised to become the next global economic superpower, policymakers say it’s essential that American schools expand their Chinese studies. More than 200 million children in China study English, but only 24,000 American students study Chinese.
“We are pleased to enable more American students to learn the Chinese language, discover the vibrant culture of China and participate more fully in the cultural exchange between our two countries,” Caperton said. “China’s tremendous economic growth will create new opportunities and challenges for our country. It’s time that we offer a 21st century choice to our students.”
West Virginia’s guest teachers, who were recently honored by the West Virginia Legislature, began serving schools in Cabell, Kanawha and Lincoln counties in January and will remain until June 2008. Cabell County plans to share its teacher among its middle schools first and then extend the program to its high schools. Lincoln County’s teacher is at the Lincoln County High School in Hamlin, while Kanawha’s is at South Charleston High School.
“We’re hoping to create interest in middle school with six-week exploratory programs so that the students will want to sign up for Chinese in high school next year,” said Jeff Smith with Cabell County schools. “Chinese is one of the top three languages to know in international business so we’re really excited about the opportunity to teach it to our students.”
West Virginia’s participation in the guest teacher program follows a trip last summer to China made by Superintendent Paine and other educators.