BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Educators say Western Kentucky University’s new Confucius Institute will broaden language offerings at local schools and help students compete in a global economy.
The university announced plans last week for the institute, which will extend Chinese language courses to city and county schools beginning this fall, The Daily News in Bowling Green reported.
The nonprofit institute is based in Beijing and promotes Chinese language and culture and supports Chinese teaching internationally through affiliated Confucius Institutes. There are 38 higher education affiliates in the U.S.
“I was excited from the start to hear about this program and not just because it expands our language program,” said Tim Murley, superintendent of Warren County Public Schools. “We talk a lot in education about preparing students for the global community. This puts the idea into practice.”
If the Warren County Board of Education approves it, the university could put four Chinese teachers in each of the system’s four high schools and possibly some middle schools.
“This will expand the language opportunity for students, which has been limited to French and Spanish,” said Winnie Cohron, Warren County Public Schools secondary instruction supervisor.
At WKU, the Confucius Institute will seek to build partnerships with businesses, government and community members on cultural programming, language education and K-12 summer programs, the newspaper reported. It also provides teacher training and certification for aspiring language teachers, professional development for established language teachers, and language proficiency exams for students, teachers and the community.
“This is the first time we have been able to offer a systematic language system for children as young as kindergarten,” said Vicki Writsel, associate superintendent for learning programs at Bowling Green Independent Schools.
Chinese will be taught every day for about 20 minutes at the elementary schools under the plan.
Details of the city’s program are not likely to be finalized until April, according to Joe Tinius, superintendent of city schools. He said offering Chinese language courses for the city’s students grants them access to the language from kindergarten all the way through college, he added.
“High school students, if they so choose after graduation, can move right into the program at Western,” he said.