Georgia School District Hopes Mandatory Mandarin Classes Can Boost Graduation Rate

A Georgia county looks to the world's second-largest economy to fix its education system

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Macon, Georgia, nestled in the heart of the Peach State, is located a world away from China. But now, the 7,000 miles that separate Macon and Beijing are being nullified thanks to a new initiative by the Georgia town’s school district, which is trying to get its ailing public-school system in order: making Chinese language classes mandatory.

Half of the district’s 25,000 students don’t graduate, CBS reported. The city, which boasts a long legacy of education as home to the world’s oldest women’s college, Wesleyan College, has implemented the “Macon Miracle” strategic plan to fix its education system. Along with more math and science classes, all students are required to take Mandarin classes to empower local students “to compete in a 21st century, multi-ethnic economy,” the county’s school superintendent Romain Dallemand told CBS.

(MORE: Sweden May Add Mandarin to Primary School Curriculum)

Starting with the youngest children, Dallemand is gradually extending the program and said he hoped to have Chinese language classes at every school level within three years, he told NPR. By 2050, he’s convinced, the students “will live in a world where, if they cannot function successfully in the Asian culture, they will pay a heavy price.” Currently, third-graders are learning the world’s most-spoken language, taught by native Mandarin speakers sent to the middle of Georgia by the Chinese government.

Last year, President Obama’s daughter Sasha, just nine years old at the time, practiced her Chinese language skills when China’s President Hu Jintao visited Washington. Former Republican presidential candidate and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Jr., is fluent in Chinese as was the U.S. 31st President Herbert Hoover, who would use the language to speak in confidence with his wife.

(MORE: Q&A Why You Should Learn Chinese)

Chinese ranks third after English and Spanish as language most used in American homes, according to a 2007 census. Still, only 2.5 million people speak Chinese at home, mostly in California and New York, peripheral compared to 34.5 million who have their dinner conversations in Spanish. But Mandarin is unarguably the most-spoken language in the world, with 845 million native speakers according to the 2009 Ethnologue. As of this year, the number is thought to have surpassed 1 billion.

But Macon students will likely need to travel a bit in order to utilize their newly-acquired language skills. In a 2010 census of then Macon County (which has since merged with Bibb County), only eight out of a population of almost 15,000 said they were of Chinese origin.

PHOTOS: A Mandarin School in Minneapolis

MORE: Get Ahead, Learn Mandarin (2006)

12 comments
Jose Estrella Hazim
Jose Estrella Hazim

For@me.is fender-bender. eCall my insurance office? 1-lol-lol-lmao or 0-you-know-now.?

Alex Valbuena
Alex Valbuena

Zachary, coz its a major commerce language.... Many countries are passing us remember??

wood3237
wood3237

STUPID STUPID STUPID. All that time should be spent on increasing lesson time for core subjects. The kids are doing bad with their core subjects, so let's toss in something else to take time away from what they need to concentrate on. These are educators? Foolish nonsense. I feel sorry for these kids. 

Our educational system has gotten terrible. It appears that one subject that needs to be taught across the board is rational, logical thinking. The problem would be finding an instructor.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Georgia is a Red State, and thinks that Romney will be elected. What better way to prepare kids for a Romney future? When their jobs are outsourced to China, they will be able go to Beijing and apply for them in Mandarin!

Jose Estrella Hazim
Jose Estrella Hazim

Past was, an Atomic external war-conflict; Present is future wich translate into, a Nuclear or Atomic internal struggle.

Zachary Michaels
Zachary Michaels

India has a high enough population of people that can speak English the USA doesn't have to worry. That's why there are tech support personnel from India.

Zachary Michaels
Zachary Michaels

I'm all for multiculturalism I'm not sure how requiring people to learn something many people find extremely challenging is going to boost graduation rates.

shimmanni
shimmanni

It's an idiotic idea of a specific school district under the sovereignty of the U.S. and under a particular U.S. educational jurisdiction to try to woo a specific ethnic community only out of a realistic desire to promote the general graduation ratio. I assuredly say so on the ground of the U.S.'s national interest. Figuratively speaking, such an attemp would inevitably incur the fertile ground of the domestic instability in the future. Please think what is there to benefit from the weird growth of a Chinese community armed with the difficult ideographic language resembling snakes and dragons with the same amount of the snarly tongues? Do you think that will enhance the integration of the U.S. society and harmony among the people of 350 million? Don't you see the possibility or potential the ethnic tiger might be tempted to consume the great country of the U.S. of the Founding Fathers?

Insect Lin
Insect Lin

This is as stupid as it can get.  Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn and most of kids will never use Chinese in their lives.  (I cannot believe how stupid this principal is in saying "By 2050 the students will live in a world where, if

they cannot function successfully in the Asian culture, they will pay a

heavy price.".  How about Spanish Culture?  Japanese Culture?

These poor kids, already struggle in English, math, and science, have to spent their precious time on something 99% of them will not comprehend or use in their lives.Moreover, the teachers are sent from China by Chinese Government, which has fundamentally different view of education from Americans.  Ever heard of brainwash?  Are they going to grow up as strong advocates of China, disregarding of human right, freedom, democracy?Of course, it is news because it is just so out of norm.  USA is a great land to try new things.  But, most of these kids are failing their learning already.  What if this experiment turns out to be wrong?  How much do these kids have to suffer so that the adults will find more reasonable way to help them?I feel bad for these kids.