Chicago students get a China experience
CHICAGO — The Chinese Cultural Festival, jointly hosted by the Confucius Institute in Chicago and Chicago Public Schools, is a good way for American students to learn about China, CIC director Jane Lu said.
“CIC focuses on promoting the Chinese language and culture in Chicago. There is such a need among CPS students and parents, and CIC is meeting the need. We are actually acting as a window and a bridge,” she said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Lu has been a CPS Chinese language teacher before and remains one after taking up the post of CIC director in 2010.
The Chinese World Language Program was first implemented in CPS in 1999, starting with three schools, but grew rapidly after the CIC was established in 2006. Now, some 13,000 of the nearly 400,000 CPS students learn Chinese daily.
Besides classroom teaching, CIC together with CPS also organizes cultural activities, where Chinese instructors and scholars are invited to teach tai chi and kung fu, and speak about the Spring Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, said Lu.
This is the fourth year that the CIC and the CPS are hosting the Chinese Cultural Festival, where CPS students can see traditional Chinese songs and dances being performed, learn Chinese calligraphy, paper-cutting, chess and painting.
To give students a chance to experience China, the CIC has been sending 20-30 CPS students to China every year.
During their four- to sixweek stay in China, the students spend half their time learning Chinese in class and the other half participating in cultural activities.
To enable the immersion program, the CIC has established sister-school relationships with the high school affiliated to Renmin University of China; the Beijing No 4 High School; the Beijing Foreign Languages School; the Shanghai Nanyang Model High School and the Shenyang Experimental High School.
The students then interact through pen pal activities and interschool exchanges.
Later, the American students share their experiences of China with their communities and schools, Lu said.
Meanwhile, CPS, the third largest urban school district in the United States, recruited a Chinese language teacher from Shanghai this year.
“The school district has a tight budget, but it still recruited a teacher from China to maintain the quality of Chinese language teaching. I was deeply moved by this,” Lu said.
Lu said that the younger a student starts learning a foreign language, the more success he or she will achieve. And through learning Chinese, American students could get interested in Chinese culture and history, which in turn would propel them to learn Chinese better, she said.
“It is a virtuous cycle,” Lu said.
“Students learning Chinese are friendly to China, and those who have been there have a special feeling for it, because they know more about the country,” Lu said.
These students will be the main force in building friendly relations between the two countries in the future.
Also, China’s strong growth is providing professional opportunities to American students learning Chinese.
“This is one of the reasons why American students are ready to study Chinese and why American parents are ready to let their children learn the language,” Lu added.
CIC is the first Confucius Institute in the United States that is housed in a K-12 environment and focuses primarily on K-12 Chinese language and culture education.