Preschools teaching some students Mandarin Chinese
by Lindsay Field
August 15, 2012 12:24 AM | 5942 views | 10 10 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Angel Zhai, right, acts out the classroom rule of ‘listen’ as she writes and pronounces the command in Mandarin Chinese at West Cobb Prep Academy.
Angel Zhai, right, acts out the classroom rule of ‘listen’ as she writes and pronounces the command in Mandarin Chinese at West Cobb Prep Academy.
MARIETTA — In an effort to provide high-quality education to students starting at an early age, the state began offering preschool programs in 1993 to 4 year olds, including teaching Mandarin Chinese to some students.

For the last 20 years, Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning has funded preschool for hundreds of thousands of children. For this school year alone, they will serve about 84,000 students in 1,200 schools statewide, with nearly 15,000 children at 89 schools here in Cobb.

Susan Adams, the assistant commissioner for Georgia Pre-K, said, “There is a large volume of research that supports early brain development.”

While parents and guardians aren’t required to enroll a child in a public or private preschool, Adams recommends parents look into some type of education programs during the early years.

“A preschool program is shown to have lasting impacts on a child’s developments,” she said.

This year also marks the fourth year that the state will work with Kennesaw State University’s Confucius Institute to teach Mandarin at area preschools, including West Cobb Prep Academy in Marietta and Ivy Hall Day School in Kennesaw.

“Mandarin is the largest, most lively spoken language in the world, and as we look at the future in our children, we need to acknowledge that, especially as we look at jobs in business and technology,” said Adams, who visited China in mid-June with DECAL Commissioner Bobby Cagle to expand the partnership with the institute and meet the 38 teachers who will be teaching in Georgia this school year.

Within the programs, children are taught the Mandarin language and study the philosophies and cultures of the Chinese.

Adams said it’s important to introduce new languages to young children because their brains are best wired to learn a second language between the ages of 2 and 5.

“It’s much easier for a child to learn a second language than an adult. It’s also easier for them to pronounce the words,” she said. “Even if a child learns a language young and then doesn’t continue the instruction, when they are older, it’s much easier to pick up that language or continue it.”

The two preschools in Cobb have taught Mandarin to students for the last three years, and Project Director Shonte Miles with West Cobb Prep said that of their 154 Georgia Pre-K students, 66 are participating in the language program.

“It’s a great experience, especially introducing a new culture to the students, and they have caught on very well,” Miles said.

She said three Mandarin teachers work with three American teachers on a daily basis, incorporating the Chinese culture and language into their schedules.

The students in the Mandarin classes are picked through a lottery selection.

“A lot of parents are hesitant at first, especially the English language learners, but after the children get acclimated, they love it,” Miles said.

Ken Jin, the director of the KSU Confucius Institute, said it was opened in 2008 and since that time, they have worked with the Cobb community and state department to incorporate the Mandarin language and Chinese culture into schools.

“We want to really prepare our students for the global economy and challenges,” he said.

The institute in Cobb is one of three in Georgia and one of 80 nationally but the only one that works closely with a state department to teach language programs to grade school children, Jin said.

“We’d like to develop our Chinese language education from Pre-K to high school,” he said. “It will give them a huge advantage when they grow up and join the labor force.”

The language classes are also offered at the middle and high school levels. Last year they introduced it to Awtrey Middle and North Cobb High and this year, they also hired teachers at Tapp Middle and Sprayberry High.

Jin said the class is similar to a student taking a French or Spanish class at the middle or high school level, but they also host cultural events throughout the school year for families that include a Chinese calligraphy class. During the summer, they host the Chinese Bridge Program, where young people travel to China for two weeks to learn the language, culture and arts of China.

The teachers brought to the U.S. for the 2012-13 school year have also been placed at preschools in Flowery Branch and Dalton, and 25 teachers will work in Bibb County Schools with students in Pre-K through third grade.

The Pre-K grant allots around $12,600 for an assistant teacher, and additional salary funds come from individual preschools or school districts. KSU uses Confucius grants to pay cost-of-living expenses.

In order to participate in the Georgia Pre-K program, a child must be at least 4 and live in Georgia.

The Georgia Lottery has funded it for the last 19 years. Last year the program cost about $300 million to run.

Two years ago, Gov. Nathan Deal approved cutting around $54 million in funds to the Georgia Pre-K program but Adams said they are trying to reallocate those funds and so far have added back 10 days to initial 20 that were cut from the 180-day calendar.

Childcare centers with licensed capacity for 22 children, local school systems, charter schools and other public institutions are eligible to apply for slots with the Georgia Pre-K program annually.

For more information or to find a Georgia Pre-K program, visit the state’s website at
Comments-icon Post a Comment
good news!
August 15, 2012
Americans are falling behind because we cannot compete with others in the new international job market. This is a good move!
August 15, 2012
Kids graduate high school and cannot speak proper English, make change and do simple mat but we are spending money to teach them Chinese.

What is wrong with this???
Kennesaw Resident
August 15, 2012
The real problem is we are not teaching it in high schools. We continue to teach Spanish and French instead of Arabic and Mandarin, which are much more important in today's world.

Get it together CCSS!
August 15, 2012
Oh,, Goody...just what we need: A whole generation of illegals who cannot speak English, but who are well-versed in Chinese!

Tell me, please, just how does one say "please refill my water glass" in Chinese?
Cobb Taxpayer
August 15, 2012
May-retta Survivor, not sure where you are coming from with the illegals angle. The illegals in school will learn to speak both English and Mandarin and already speak another language, so they will be trilingual - lucky them! We should ALL be so fortunate in this global age.
@May-retta survivor
August 15, 2012
Your ignorance should surprise me but it doesn't.
August 16, 2012
@Cobb Taxpayer, I'm coming from the hard face of reality which, I suspect, is why you failed to understand my comment.

Try spending a few minutes at any market, restaurant or store in our are and you will witness and hear our local illegals speaking nothing but spanish to their children...simply because that is the only, repeat only, language they know or care to learn. And these are the same people we want to speak Chinese?

Get a grip!
Cobb Taxpayer
August 16, 2012
@ May-retta Survivor, I don't really have a problem with others speaking another language. I have been in many foreign countries where I am the one who doesn't speak the language. Tell me, have you ever been out of May-retta? While the first generation may not speak the english, the second generation and beyond will.

Are you trying to turn this into a discussion about illegal immigration instead of congratulating our schools about their forward thinking? I suspect that is your real issue.
August 17, 2012
@Cobb Taxpayer. Funny you should ask and not that it's any of your business, but for clarification purposes only, I have been to China..twice. And you?
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