Sustained demand for Chinese teachers in US schools creates opportunities

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/5/30 0:03:44

A teacher teaches Chinese to kids in a primary school in New York in June 2014. Photo: IC

Standing with a bright smile in front of a booth at the 11th annual US National Chinese Language Conference at a hotel in Salt Lake City, educational coordinator Brain White warmly greeted participants.

His visitors were among the 1,300 teachers, administrators and officials from across the US who attended the conference at the Grand American Hotel.

White represents Educational Partners International (EPI), a company that sponsors exchange programs and facilitates international teacher recruitment, placement and support. It aims to build up contacts with Chinese language teachers attending the conference, which ended on Saturday.

"There is an increasing demand from US schools to have Chinese language programs, but there's difficulty obtaining teachers that are qualified to teach," said White.

"We work with teachers from all over the world, but we are here today to put an emphasis on the importance of Chinese teachers to come over to the US and learn about our education system," he said, adding that in the meantime his organization aims to "give American students the opportunity to learn more about Chinese language, Chinese culture and inspire them to travel to China."

He said his organization is a bridge between American schools and Chinese language teachers, and that they are committed to recruiting the best teachers for American schools.

Chinese language courses are now available in more and more primary and secondary schools across the US, ranking as the fourth most widely taught foreign language in the country's education system, according to the National K-12 Foreign Language Enrollment Survey Report released last year.

The survey shows that 227,086 American students have enrolled in Chinese courses, trailing those taking Spanish, French and German. Chinese currently has the largest number of native speakers in the world.

With the rise of Chinese programs in recent years, a shortage of qualified teachers has become a challenge for US school administrators and policymakers who hope to expand their language curricula.

EPI's vigorous efforts to recruit Chinese teachers are a new initiative to meet the increasing demand in the US, according to White. EPI was not the only organization in the conference looking to recruit more teachers.

Eddie Conger, founder and superintendent of International Leadership of Texas (IL Texas), took part in the event and talked with participants face to face.

IL Texas is a public charter school founded in 2013 in the southwestern state of Texas. The number of students attending IL Texas has increased from 5,000 to a staggering 16,000 in the last five years.

According to Conger, IL Texas is the largest school system in the US that requires all students, aged 5 to 18, to master not only English, but Spanish and Chinese as well. The requirement demonstrates an effort to better equip the graduates to adapt to the highly competitive international business landscape of the future.

"Because of our incredible growth in five years, the demand for international teachers is very important," said Conger, adding that they are working with Hanban, the Chinese institution tasked with promoting Chinese language worldwide, to look for opportunities to bring more Chinese teachers to Texas.

Currently, there are 93 Chinese teachers in IL Texas, but the school hopes to hire around 20 more in the coming year, according to Wang Xiaoyan, director of the Chinese Language program at IL Texas.

"Being a qualified Chinese language teacher takes more than being a fluent speaker of Chinese. You should be creative in teaching skills and proficient in some other subjects, such as science and math," Wang said.

Echoing Wang's remarks, White said eligible teachers for EPI must currently be teaching full-time and "have two years full-time teaching experience."

Language could be the key in bridging the several gaps that exist among the world's two largest economies."

Newspaper headline: Language bridge


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