Using a unique method that will allow students to learn directly from someone in China, the Huron Valley School District will begin offering a two-year Mandarin Chinese program as a foreign language option for students at Huron Valley Milford and Lakeland high schools. Because of the tectonic shifts that have occurred in the global economy in recent years — making China a critical actor in the international economic, business, and political arena — the district is on the right path for preparing students for future careers and endeavors.
Oakland County unveiled a few years ago a coordinated effort to offer Mandarin Chinese, the official language of China, in county schools.
What makes the Huron Valley program different is that the courses will be conducted using distance learning — they will be taught live by a teacher from Beijing, China. The time zone difference isn’t a problem, since the course will begin at midnight in China, making it take place during the regular school day here.
Students will access the website mychinese360.com, which provides “around the clock, around the globe” instruction and is designed for the digital novice. It provides tools such as live video chat rooms to connect with the instructor, instant messaging, assignments, grades and schedules. The innovative teaching style includes a unique camera and mouse apparatus for each student so they can ask questions and draw Chinese characters.
Twenty students have expressed an interest in the course, according to Huron Valley Director of Secondary Education David Maile. We hope more do in the future, as China’s influence in the world grows seemingly exponentially each day.
Just a few years ago, the only foreign languages that were realistic and practical to offer in public schools were Spanish, French, and German. They were, after all, the foreign languages that could most reasonably be needed in the U.S. But now, with the rise of the Chinese economy, Mandarin can easily be lumped in with the other three as a logical course offering, given the likelihood that some HVS students will be pursuing careers in which knowing Mandarin — at even its most basic, conversational level — would be a boon to their employment chances or even a requirement for their jobs.
So hats off to Huron Valley for providing students the option of boning up on Mandarin during their high school years. We hope other districts follow suit and provide their students the same opportunity.