UK Confucius Institute offers K-12 schools support for global readiness

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The Visiting Teachers from China for the 2016-17 school year include, from left, Xiong Renli (Fayette County), Wei Xiaocheng (Frankfort Independent), Wang Wen (Woodford County), Liang Guangxia (Frankfort Independent), Diao Yitong (Woodford County), Cheng Labing (Beechwood Independent), Carrie Wheeler (UKCI K-12 teacher coordinator), Xu Jimin (Woodford County), Li Yang (Beechwood Independent), Yang Xiaoye (Rowan County) and Li Chun (Fayette County). Photo submitted by Carrie Wheeler
The Visiting Teachers from China for the 2016-17 school year include, from left, Xiong Renli (Fayette County), Wei Xiaocheng (Frankfort Independent), Wang Wen (Woodford County), Liang Guangxia (Frankfort Independent), Diao Yitong (Woodford County), Cheng Labing (Beechwood Independent), Carrie Wheeler (UKCI K-12 teacher coordinator), Xu Jimin (Woodford County), Li Yang (Beechwood Independent), Yang Xiaoye (Rowan County) and Li Chun (Fayette County).
Photo submitted by Carrie Wheeler

By Huajing Maske and Carrie Wheeler
huajing.maske@uky.edu, carrie.wheeler@uky.edu

The University of Kentucky Confucius Institute’s K-12 Chinese Language, Culture Development and Enhancement Program is designed to help Kentucky schools support global readiness programs with a focus on Chinese language and culture.

The K-12 Chinese Language, Culture Development and Enhancement Program allows local school districts in Kentucky to host highly qualified, licensed, native Chinese speaking educators to provide instruction at the elementary, middle and high school level. Each Chinese teacher has a minimum of three years of teaching experience and must hold advanced degrees.

This program provides teachers to fill full-time Chinese language instruction positions in a host district for a period of one to three years. This is possible because of support the UK Confucius Institute (UKCI) receives from the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) to recruit, train and provide yearly salaries for these highly qualified teachers.

The knowledge, skills and cultural understanding that come with the process of learning a world language provides students with a global viewpoint. These students are able to develop competencies to understand different cultures and are better prepared for an increasingly competitive global job market.

In addition to the benefits experienced by the schools that host a Chinese teacher, the larger communities benefit from the deep cultural awareness and cultural expression of these teachers. For example, community organizations have invited teachers to participate in a world food festival or annual fall festival. These community events give visiting teachers another platform to share their culture and engage in a valuable exchange.

The first teachers to come to Kentucky through UKCI’s K-12 Chinese Language, Culture Development and Enhancement Program arrived in 2011 through a partnership between Woodford County Schools and the UK Confucius Institute. Between 2011 and 2016, more than 30 schools have joined the partnership network and established Chinese language and culture study programs. Partner schools work with UKCI’s staff to identify and arrange housing, pair Chinese teachers with American mentor teachers and help the newly arrived teachers adjust to local life and work as soon as possible.

The K-12 Chinese Language, Culture Development and Enhancement Program can contribute to a school’s global readiness program by assisting in curriculum development, collaborative teaching – such as arts, social studies and in some cases, even math – world language program expansion and even creating a Chinese -U.S. school partnership.

“We were so excited to learn about the opportunities that the University of Kentucky Confucius Institute could offer to our students in Rowan County,” said Allison Matthews, Rowan County public school’s assessment coordinator. “As we prepare our students to become globally competent, we want them to have the skills to investigate the world, to think about different cultures and to learn another language. It has been a very exciting time to welcome our teacher into our district; she has come to us very equipped. We hope to continue this program into our intermediate grades and in future years, expand to our middle and high school.”

The strategy for establishing these partnerships is to create a districtwide Chinese as a world language program. Elementary schools offer Chinese language at each grade level and by the time students reach middle school, the more advanced students can take high school credit courses in Chinese. Other students are still able to take more basic introductory language courses as their interest allows.

Students who pass the high school credit course in middle school are prepared to advance in their learning and by their junior or senior year of high school, are able to reach AP Chinese. This holistic model allows for student success at all levels and supports learning at high levels.

“Confucius Classroom” is another UKCI program that helps schools advance their Chinese language, culture development and enhancement program with more funding and resources. By hosting a Confucius Classroom, school districts receive extra financial support to help build quality Chinese language programs. Key benefits to participating institutions include:

  • $30,000 startup fund to improve and expand the institution’s Confucius Classroom facility and Chinese language and culture program;
  • $10,000 annual program fund for things such as books, technology, field trips and staff development;
  • Teaching materials and resources;
  • Participation in other Confucius Institute programs such as high school study trips to China, Chinese Bridge Speech Contests and scholarships to study in China; and
  • Assistance in locating and developing partnerships with schools in China.

“I think it has gone a long way toward authenticating the cultural experience we are striving to provide, simply by establishing a room dedicated to Chinese language, art and culture,” Jason McAllister, principal of Southside Elementary (Woodford County), said about his school’s Confucius Classroom. “I think it builds ownership for our Chinese teachers and that spills over to enhanced instructional experiences for our students.”

Elaine Kaiser, principal at Huntertown Elementary (Woodford County), said her school’s experience with the K-12 Chinese Language, Culture Development and Enhancement Program and the Confucius Classroom program will open up new opportunities for students.

“Not only will students be able to learn the language and become proficient, but they will engage in Chinese-related activities with others in a sister school in China and in our local community,” she said. “The partnership with the Confucius Institute has been a huge contributing factor to success of our language program. Also, we have been fortunate to have dedicated, knowledgeable, Chinese teachers who have enhanced the experience for students through Chinese pen pals, Chinese performances and engaging lessons.”

Global Readiness is a vital part of College and Career Readiness and 21st century skills. The UKCI’s Chinese Language, Culture Development and Enhancement Program adds to students’ overall global readiness by bringing the culture, language and people of China into schools, classrooms and communities.

“No longer are occupational and learning experiences bound by the limits of geography or the access to travel,” said the Kentucky Department of Education’s Wayne Stevens, an effectiveness coach with the Office of Teaching and Learning. “Students engaged in a holistic world language programs benefit from experiences that will inform their interactions with future colleagues. Not only do students have the opportunity to develop additional languages to support communication, the cultural interactions that are often interwoven in these programs provide the necessary soft skills that are essential in the 21st century.”

For more information on the UK Confucius Institute’s K-12 Chinese Language, Culture Development & Enhancement Program, visit the UKCI website, or contact Huajing Maske, UKCI executive director at (859) 257-4607, or by email at huajing.maske@uky.edu.

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