Developing the China Connection Through Education Programs

Oregon Representative Dennis Richardson advocates substantially increasing the number of students studying mandarin [PDF]:

The U.S Department of Education in announcing its role in the National Security Language Initiative reported some statistics:

  • More than 200 million children in China are studying English, a compulsory subject for all Chinese primary school students. By comparison, only about 24,000 of approximately 54 million elementary and secondary school children in the United States are studying Chinese.
  • According to the Center for Applied Linguistics, only 31% of American elementary schools (and 24% of public elementary schools) report teaching foreign languages, and 79% of those schools focus on giving introductory exposure to a language rather than achieving overall proficiency. Richardson/Porter Proposal 10/31/06 4
  • Only 44% of American high school students are enrolled in foreign languages classes as reported by the 2002 Digest of Education Statistics. Of those students, 69% are enrolled in Spanish and 18% in French, with less than 1% of American high school students combined study Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Russian or Urdu
  • Less than 8% of United States undergraduates take foreign language courses, and less than 2% study abroad in any given year. Foreign language degrees account for only about 1% of undergraduate degrees conferred in the United States.

Although there is no existing report on Chinese language courses in Oregon, some Oregon schools are independently developing their own programs for their students to learn the Chinese language. Portland Public Schools has a Chinese immersion (half day Chinese, half day English) program at Woodstock elementary that started in 1997. In the Fall 2006 semester it doubled in size from one class per grade (25-30 students) to two classes (50-60 students). So far the double class is only kindergarten. One grade will be added each year as the students get older. Some of the students are now in middle school at Hosford Middle School. A high school component will be added at either Cleveland or Franklin High School. The Portland Public Schools may start another Chinese immersion program at another elementary school in the future.

Mandarin is offered at one Madison High School: Memorial. Oregon Business Plan.