By Carrie Wheeler
The University of Kentucky’s Confucius Institute’s (UKCI) is designed to help Kentucky schools develop Chinese language and culture study programs. The program also promotes international exchange between schools in the United States and China.
UKCI is a center for Chinese language, culture, art and business. A gateway to China for the university and the Commonwealth, the institute serves as a conduit for many of UK’s China initiatives, facilitating a range of exchange programs.
One of the institute’s programs is the K-12 Chinese Language, Culture Development and Enhancement Program. Since 2011, this program has provided more than 30 Kentucky public schools with the opportunity to host highly qualified, licensed, native Chinese speaking educators to provide Chinese language instruction at the elementary, middle and high school level.
Each Chinese teacher has a minimum of three years of teaching experience and holds advanced degrees. Thanks to the support that UKCI receives from the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) to recruit, train and provide yearly salaries for these highly qualified teachers, Kentucky public schools can host these teachers for a period of one to three years.
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 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.
“Confucius Classroom” is another UKCI program that helps educators advance their school’s 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:
- $20,000 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 has opened up new opportunities for students.
“Not only are students able to learn the language and become proficient, but they 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.”
For more information, visit the University of Kentucky’s Confucius Institute website, or contact Huajing Maske, UKCI executive director at (859) 257-4607, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further assistance, visit the Visiting International Teacher Program webpage on the Kentucky Department of Education website; or contact Alfonso De Torres Núñez, KDE world languages consultant at (502) 564-2106, ext. 4134, or by e-mail at email@example.com.