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District Explores Options for Offering more Chinese Language Education

2011 December 2
by HISD Communications

More than 60 of the Top 100 non-U.S.-based corporations have a presence in Houston. If Houston were an independent nation, it would rank as the world’s 30th largest economy. We have become a global economy, and our schools must prepare students to compete and thrive in a global marketplace.

For this reason, we are working on a plan to expand our global language programs, with a particular focus in the coming year on the language and culture of China. This plan involves strategies such as:

  • Creating a Confucius Institute at the district level that would serve as a “hub” for all of our schools in distributing Han Ban and other educational materials, connecting teachers to professional development, and partnering HISD schools with schools in China.
  • Strengthening and expanding the availability of Chinese programs in HISD, such as expanded Confucius Classrooms at all levels.
  • Creating a dual language Chinese school that will also house the Confucius Institute
  • Developing a strong Chinese Language Curriculum based on national standards that provides for seamless connection between and among HISD’s elementary, middle and high schools with post-secondary Chinese programs.
  • Forming and strengthening partnerships with organizations such as College Board, Asia Society, The Chinese Consulate in Houston, the Chinese Community Center, and universities that offer strong Chinese programs, as well as fostering cooperation and exchange with China and other countries.
  • Increasing access to educational and cultural resources and providing real-world experiences for our students and teachers.

“We’re talking about doing something that is so important for our kids, improving the options they have for learning foreign languages and doing it very well,” said HISD Board of Education Trustee Harvin Moore, who spoke about the need to prepare Houston children to thrive in a global economy that is heavily influenced by China. “We are at the right place and at the right time to make a tremendous difference for the children of Houston.”

There are currently a limited number of global language programs offered across the district. Three of our schools – International High School at Sharpstown, Houston Academy for International Studies, and Kolter Elementary School – have established Confucius Classrooms in partnership with the Asia Society, and 14 of our schools offer some type of Chinese program. Nearly 1,300 students participate in these programs.

In addition to Chinese, HISD students can take classes in Spanish, French, Russian, German, and Japanese. But this exposure comes late in their academic experience, usually in high school. Our students need access to programs early on in their schooling, as research shows that young children are capable of acquiring foreign languages quickly. We are already seeing success in many of our elementary schools with a strong bilingual program in Spanish. We know our colleagues in other countries have been for some time now, teaching students multiple languages as part of their core educational program.

Our students deserve, and families expect, the best educational experience possible not to just prepare them for the jobs of today, but the jobs of the future. This initiative will bring us one step closer to that goal.

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