Friday, January 11, 2013

The Janesville International Project: Being Proactive in a Global Society

The School District of Janesville won three national awards last year.  One of those awards was for having one of the best Chinese language programs in the country.  Credit for instituting Mandarin Chinese in the School District of Janesville goes to a previous board that had the foresight to think futuristically beyond the confines of typical and ordinary and include a language our students will need in the future.  Some of our current board members were on that board.  Over a billion people in the world speak Mandarin Chinese, more than any other language. Mandarin Chinese is not only spoken in China, but it is the official language of Mainland China and Taiwan, and one of the official languages of Singapore and the United Nations.

Mandarin is also spoken in many of the Overseas Chinese communities throughout the world. There are an estimated 40 million Overseas Chinese, mostly in Asian countries (about 30 million), but also in the Americas (6 million), Europe (2 million), Oceania (1 million) and Africa (100,000). It is the fastest growing language in the world.   If China continues to grow and becomes the largest economy in the world, which it is predicted to become, the language will become even more prevalent.

I am more convinced now than before I left on this journey that we must continue to teach and give opportunities to our students to be competitive in the global workforce.  There are over 373 Confucius classrooms in the United States.  Confucius classrooms are run by the College Board which supports development of k-12 Chinese language programs in the U.S. by providing guidance to school districts embarking on the journey of teaching Mandarin Chinese. Partnerships are being forged all over the world.  Students are taking advantage of these opportunities in a new and revitalized way.

It is important that we help our students in the School District of Janesville to become globally competitive.  They may choose to work here in our community or they may seek employment elsewhere, but as the world continues to flatten it will be important for them to have the needed skills to not only be highly employable, but to contribute to society.

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