Okinawa: Pilot program to introduce Mandarin at four Pacific schools

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Aug 28 12:51:44 UTC 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

DODDS-Pacific back to school: Pilot program to introduce Mandarin at four
Pacific schools

By Megan McCloskey, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, August 27, 2006

TORII STATION, Okinawa Leading the charge in a new federal emphasis on
foreign language, Department of Defense Dependents Schools in the Pacific
will pilot a program this year to teach Mandarin to middle school and high
school students. Despite being among the worlds most widely spoken,
Chinese languages rarely are part of any American schools foreign language
curriculum. DODDS-Pacific is at the forefront of the U.S. governments push
to change that. Four schools will offer Mandarin this year: Seoul American
Middle School, Seoul American High School, Kubasaki High School and Kadena
High School.

Nancy Bresell, director of DODDS-Pacific, said school officials realize
that China is becoming an economic leader. By providing an opportunity for
our students to learn Chinese, they will be in a better position to meet
the demands of a growing global society. The new program supports the
National Security Language Initiative the White House announced in
January. The initiative outlines the importance of American proficiency in
languages that reflect the worlds economic and security shifts. Mandarin,
Arabic and Hindi are among languages that have been identified as critical
for Americans to know, according to the Department of State Web site.

The DODDS effort is on the cusp of a trend just starting to take root in a
few scattered American public school districts. Oregon, for example, has
started an ambitious Chinese language initiative that begins with
instruction in kindergarten and continues all the way through the
University of Oregon. The Portland school district won a grant from the
Department of Defense to fund the program. The Department of Defense
Education Activity is taking on two of the critical-need languages. In
addition to Mandarin in the Pacific, Arabic will be taught by DODDS in

Bresell said the Chinese classes will expand to other schools in the
Pacific if theyre successful. She said she also hopes to have the language
taught at elementary school level. But if that happens, DODDS-Pacific will
have to re-evaluate its foreign language program, she said. Something has
got to give, Bresell said, adding that the schools simply arent large
enough to add a language without dropping one currently being taught. The
districts will have to get creative to make Mandarin classes available in
a way that is cost-effective, she said. One possibility is to combine
online learning programs with a teacher of Mandarin who travels among the

If there are children who want to learn a language like Chinese, I want to
make it available to them, Bresell said. DODDS-Pacific also is launching a
Spanish immersion program for elementary school students. Kindergartners
and first-graders will get 90 minutes per week of instruction in the
language. The pilot program will be taught at eight schools this year: Bob
Hope Primary School and Stearley Heights, Seoul American, Osan, Andersen,
McCool, Yokota East and Yokota West elementary schools. Bruce Derr,
DODDS-Japan district superintendent, said the Spanish-language instruction
would be expanded to all 12 elementary schools in Japan next year with a
goal of ultimately bringing it to every grade.

Some of our larger high schools presently offer French or German, he said.
Bresell said, Were thrilled about it. She said she believes that starting
instruction at a young age is critical in building language skills. The
program is to be expanded in 2007 to additional grades in the eight
original pilot schools and to kindergarten and first grade in other

 2006 Stars and Stripes. All Rights Reserved.


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