High hopes for Mandarin initiative

Updated: 2012-09-21 11:12 By Yu Wei in New York (China Daily) Nearly half of ninth-graders in Bibb…

Georgia (Sep 21, 2012) — Nearly half of ninth-graders in Bibb County dropped out of school during 2011-2012, among the worst rates of any district in Georgia, according to the state Education Department.


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Updated: 2012-09-21 11:12
By Yu Wei in New York (China Daily)

Hoping to turn around its academic performance, the Bibb County School District is becoming a leader among US public school systems in language instruction. It's implementing a bold plan to make Mandarin Chinese required for all students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade within three years.

Incorporating Mandarin into the district-wide curriculum is the linchpin of the county's strategy for transforming local public schools.

"The intent is that as students learn Mandarin, their opportunities to fulfill the Bibb mission of 'all students college-ready' will become a reality, as well as being prepared to live and work in a global, multiethnic economy as productive citizens," said Jane Drennan, the district's deputy superintendent of teaching and learning.

"US public schools have traditionally not included bilingual education as a part of the core curriculum for students," she added. "That makes us one of the few countries in the world that teaches only English in our school systems, thus the vast majority of our citizens can only speak English.

"In today's global, multi-ethnic society it is imperative that we address this gap in our students' education."    …

The program involves the hiring of 25 teachers through the Confucius Institute at Kennesaw State University, a two-hour drive from Bibb County, who provide the compulsory Chinese instruction. The educators were trained in teaching Chinese as a second language at Yangzhou University and have taught at schools in China.

Each teacher's yearly salary consists of $12,000 from the Office of Chinese Language Council International (known as Hanban and overseen by China's Education Ministry), and $16,000 by the Bibb County district, said Ken Jin, director of the Kennesaw Confucius Institute.

According to Jin, the teachers in Bibb County are the first to arrive in the US since last spring's resolution of a dispute between the State Department and Hanban over the visa eligibility of Confucius Institute hires attached to American schools. The department had ordered such teachers to leave the US and reapply for entry, saying they shouldn't have been using J-1 visas meant for foreign scholars engaged in work- or study-based exchange programs at colleges and universities. US officials later reversed that decision.  


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu