Superintendent was among 400 educators in program to build, expand Chinese foreign language programs in U.S. schools

Michael Call, superintendent of the Estacada School District was among 400 U.S. educators who traveled to China for a one-week educational tour to learn about Chinese culture and language in an effort to build and expand Chinese language programs in U.S. schools.

The event represented a rare opportunity for school decision-makers to experience China firsthand, learn about the culture, and see the dramatic pace of change under way in the world's most populated nation. The trip took place from June 27 through July 5, and was sponsored by Hanban, China's Office of Chinese Language Council International, in partnership with the College Board, the Chinese Language Association of Secondary-Elementary Schools (CLASS), and the National Council of State Supervisors for Languages (NCSSFL).

Beyond the benefit of cultural enrichment, this tour was also expected to provide incentives and strategies for the educators to return to the United States better able to support the growth of Chinese programs in their own schools and districts.

'We appreciate the support of Hanban, which will 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,' said College Board President Gaston Caperton. 'More than 200 million children in China are studying English, yet only 24,000 children in the United States are studying Chinese. In addition, China's tremendous economic growth will create new opportunities and challenges for our country. It's time that we offer a twenty-first-century choice to our students.'

During the trip, educators will had an opportunity to meet with Chinese education leaders, build sister school and city ties, and network with other U.S. school leaders who are bringing Chinese language programs to their districts and schools. Delegates visited Beijing from June 27 through July 1, and traveled in small groups to other cities and provinces to meet with local education commissions from July 2 to July 5.

In an Advanced Placement program (AP) survey conducted in 2004, nearly 2,400 high schools expressed an interest in offering the AP Chinese course in 2006-07, but for many of these schools, this goal may go unrealized. They either are understaffed or have no teacher of Chinese, and many see no prospect of finding the teachers necessary to build their programs. This increasingly common predicament underscores the critical shortage of qualified teachers of Chinese in the United States. According to the Chinese Language Association of Secondary-Elementary Schools, there are currently only about 250 Chinese language teachers in U.S. secondary schools.

Chinese is the most widely spoken first language in the world. It is the national language of the more than 1.3 billion inhabitants of China and millions more ethnic Chinese around the globe. Chinese will top English as the most-used language on the Internet by 2007, according to forecasts by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

In April 2006, the College Board and Hanban announced the formation of a partnership to build and expand Chinese language programs in U.S. schools. In addition to this year's educational tour, which Hanban plans to offer as an annual event, the partnership features other programs especially intended to help educators who would like to create or grow a Chinese language and culture program in their schools or districts.

Over the next three years, 250 guest teachers from China will be placed in American classrooms. The plan will also enable the College Board to support nearly 300 American teacher candidates in their efforts to attain state certification to teach Chinese. This summer, 60 American teachers of Chinese will benefit from intensive, three-week Summer Institutes to be held at Beijing Normal University and Shanghai International Studies University. These programs will expand to include greater numbers of teachers and to involve cities beyond Beijing and Shanghai in the coming years. In all, nearly 600 current and aspiring American teachers of Chinese will have access to these programs over the next five years.

Established by the Chinese government in 1987, Hanban is the nation's official agency authorized to promote Chinese language and culture internationally, fulfilling a function similar to that of the UK's British Council and France's Alliance Française.

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