As schools meet the task of educating 21st century learners, it has become clear that learning Mandarin in elementary schools is one way to address the need for students to become bilingual and thus more skilled for the workforce of the future.
Mandarin is the most common language spoken in China among its population of 1.3 billion people.
Students begin learning Mandarin in immersion programs as young as kindergarten. Most immersion programs utilize a model of half the day daught in Mandarin and half in English. This way, students are not just learning a few words in a language class – they are learning to use the language right away.
At Tarwater Elementary, in the Chandler Arizona Unified District, a Mandarin speaking teacher has already been hired for first grade, and the district plans to add one grade level every year.
“Our district’s just been so incredibly supportive of this program,” Principal Jeff Hensley said. “In the hiring people, securing good teachers, it’s just been nothing but a really positive start.”