The Mount Airy Board of Education approved a partnership with the University of North Carolina Center for International Understanding (CIU) which will provide a new foreign language class for students — Mandarin Chinese.
“We want our students to have all the tools in their tool box, so to speak, they need to succeed,” said Superintendent Dr. Gregory Little. “This would allow them to participate in the global community. The world will not become less global.” Little indicated colleges typically ask for two years of a foreign language.
Friedrick explained the North Carolina-China program was launched in 2010 with a goal of increasing students understanding of China and its ability to communicate and collaborate with Chinese peers. He said this is accomplished through forming relationships at the state-to-province level, educators traveling to China and school-to-school programs with the Jiangsu Province.
“The Chinese language is considered a critical language,” Little said. “This can be an important tool for our students as they map out their future. I’ve been amazed during research for this how many local companies have ties to China. This will not only be a great opportunity for students but will impact the community as well.”
He said the group also helps recruit and train a Chinese guest teachers, who teaches locally for participating schools. Additional program support comes from Hanban, which is a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education and has a goal of providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide.
CIU Director of K-12 Education programs Matthew Friedrick told the board more than 7,000 North Carolina students will be learning Chinese through the “Confucius Classrooms” program in the 2013/2014 school year, which marks the fourth year of the program. Mount Airy High School Principal Sandy George told the group 60 students have said they are interested in the program. Little confirmed the course would be implemented at the high school level and then expanded to the middle school.
Little talked with the board about how Mount Airy’s heritage of family values and a “Mayberry” image was also aligned with the town being an international place of business. He said China will impact the next generation’s success and the language skills would allow local students to compete with their Chinese peers. Currently, MAHS also offers Spanish. Little said he felt the combination of both languages gives students more practical skills locally and internationally.
“In light of budget opportunities over the last five years, we have had to scale back our foreign language offerings. Now we can add something,” Little said earlier. He talked with the board about how Chinese and English are both critical languages in the business world globally.
Fredrick’s presentation indicated learning a critical language allows them to better choose their future, become global leaders who are culturally aware. He told the board a student who speaks English and Mandarin Chinese greatly increases her career potential and are able to work in multi-cultural teams as well as improving reading instruction when children learn an unfamiliar language.
The board also heard a presentation on the 1:1 initiative and was told how representatives from schools helped make the program transition to the 12th grade. Little credited the group with creating ” a growth mindset digital environment promoting global learning.” Another goal of the initiative is to improve collaboration through increased digital resources access.
Teacher Tina VanHoy talked with the group about what the addition of Chromebooks had meant to sixth grade students through the system’s ongoing initiative.
“You have opened up a whole world for these kids,” said VanHoy. “I knew nothing about technology (at the start) but I love Chromebooks. Kids love games (like the educational games on Chromebook software) but they don’t want to think they are doing something where they learn something. I love how after they take some tutorials many go right on with the lessons. This gives me a chance for more individual attention to students who need me more. Kids can collaborate, at home, in their PJs if they need to. They learn more from each other than from me. We couldn’t have done this before.”
David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-0952 or on twitter @MtAiryNewsDave.