School children in Warren County may soon be speaking Chinese after the School Board voted to accept an offer by the Chinese government to teach the language here at little cost to taxpayers.
“They will fund two teachers for Warren County and our costs will be roughly $9,500 a year,” said School Board chairman Bill Zechman in presenting the idea to the full board. “I don’t know of anywhere else where you can get a deal like that.”
The idea came after Director of Schools Bobby Cox was contacted by MTSU which has a Mandarin Chinese curriculum in its foreign language department. During the call, it was asked if Warren County would be interested in having Mandarin Chinese taught in its schools.
The teachers, it was learned, would have their salaries paid by the Chinese government as part of a cultural exchange. Warren County’s end would require the schools to pay for their housing and part of their health insurance.
“I think it’s a win-win,” Zechman said in pitching the idea to the board, noting Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken native language in the world with about 1 billion people speaking the dialect.
When the language is introduced to students, which may be as early as next school year, it will likely first be taught in K-2 since foreign languages tend to be easier to learn by younger students.
“They don’t even think about difficulty at that age,” Zechman said, noting that in Georgia where the curriculum was taught most students were proficient in the language after one year.
As a description of what it means to be proficient, Zechman said a person with that degree of mastery could be dropped off in downtown Beijing and be able to do the basics and navigate around town without much difficulty.
Cox noted studies have also shown students who are taught a second language at a young age tend to do better in their other classes. The Chinese inclusion in the K-2 curriculum, Cox said, would not be allowed to take away from the basics being taught to students.
In addition to teaching classes for younger students, the pair of teachers might also be used for special classes to teach the county’s gifted students, as well as for instruction during events like YSI.
The course is already being taught in Bedford and Knox counties, both of which informed school officials here the new curriculum is working fine in their systems.