The rising popularity of Chinese-language classes hasn’t gone unnoticed by independent schools.
A new initiative by the National Association of Independent Schools and the government of China is sending 20 teachers from the People’s Republic to such private schools all over the United States to teach Mandarin.
HANBAN, China’s National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, a nongovernmental organization that is supported by the Chinese government and the Chinese Embassy in Washington, contacted the NAIS earlier this year about the China Connection, a program that would provide native Chinese teachers to independent schools.
“They’re actively promoting the language and culture, and finding a receptive audience in many areas,” said Paul Miller, the director of global initiatives at the NAIS.
About 150 of the 13,000 member-schools of the Washington-based NAIS offer either Mandarin or Cantonese, the two main Chinese dialects, Mr. Miller said. Of those, 20 are participants in the China Connection program.
Nine heads of independent schools and one NAIS representative traveled to China in June to interview prospective teachers for the program. After a week of training in Beijing, the 20 teachers who were selected arrived in the United States on Aug. 29. Many of the schools in which they were to teach at had already begun classes for the school year.
HANBAN is paying the teachers a stipend for their first year here. They have the option of applying to stay for two additional years, in which case their respective schools would pay their salaries.
Michael Downs, the head of school of the 700-student Mounds Park Academy, in St. Paul, Minn., said the financial incentive from HANBAN was a factor in joining the program.
“It was a nice spur to get us to implement a program we’d been considering,” he said.
The China Connection teacher at his school, Wang Tian, said that the students in Minnesota are more active and speak up more in the classroom than students she’d taught in China.
“I was surprised and happy that they know a little already, like ni hao, ” she added. Ni hao is Mandarin for hello.
A version of this article appeared in the September 13, 2006 edition of Education Week