UConn to train teachers to offer Mandarin Chinese
Starting in January, the University of Connecticut will offer what is believed to be the state’s only full teacher preparation program in Mandarin Chinese.
“We are excited,” Sarah Barzee, chief talent officer for the state Department of Education, said Wednesday as the proposal was fasttracked through the state Board of Education for unanimous approval.
UConn would include Mandarin in what officials say is a robust world language program that already turns out teachers of French, Spanish, German, Italian and Latin.
The program would start small, with three to five students per class in each of the first couple of years.
It will take five years for students to go through the traditional integrated bachelor-master degree program or a year and a summer to go through a Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates.
Candidates in the TCPCG program will need a bachelor’s degree in Chinese or the equivalent.
The plan is for UConn to start marketing the program this summer. Its creators said they expect current students at UConn may be candidates for it.
Chinese is the fourth most prevalent non-English language spoken at home. It is also the fourth most taught foreign language in schools across the country, with more than 227,000 students enrolled, according to Michele Back, an assistant professor in UConn’s Neag School of Education.
Joe Vrabley, a board member and owner of a steel processing company in Glastonbury, called Mandarin Chinese one of the major languages in the business world.
Finding certified teachers in the subject, however, remains an issue. Many districts, Back said, will employ native speakers as temporary hires to offer instruction.
“We saw preparing teachers to teach Mandarin Chinese as a big need for schools in Connecticut and we look forward to fulfilling that need,” Ann Traynor, director of advising and certification at the Neag School, said.
World language teachers are on the state’s list of critical shortage areas.
The state’s Office of Higher Education’s Alternate Route to Certification offers a certification program for Chinese instruction, but UConn will be the only traditional higher education program in the state to offer it, state officials said.
Katie Moirs, a program approval coordinator for the state, told the state board the one issue her team of evaluators had was to make sure UConn had the right faculty to develop the program.
“Mandarin Chinese is not a romance language. It is not as easy to learn as Italian or Spanish,” Moirs said. “They brought in some very impressive resumes of native speakers of the language.”