Hamburg directors propose adding Mandarin Chinese to program of studies

Hamburg Area school directors are considering a proposal that would add Mandarin Chinese to the district’s program of studies for the 2014-15 school year.

On Nov. 11, Dr. Elizabeth Lambi, director of curriculum and instruction, stressed to school directors the importance of enriching the current curriculum by creating courses and programs to gain knowledge and understanding of the world at large.

“China is the second largest economy in the world,” Dr. Lambi said. “It is one of the largest trade partners with the United States. Pennsylvania exported more than $1.5 billion of goods in 2009.”

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There is a need to adapt to an ever-changing world and to help prepare students to be successful in that world, Dr. Lambi added.

The program is run jointly by the Berks County Intermediate Unit (BCIU) and the Confucius Institute at the University of Pittsburgh (CI-Pitt).

The teachers who are chosen are pursuing their master’s degree at Wuhan University, one of the top ten universities in China.

The cost of the program varies with expenses such as health insurance coverage, lodging and state-required clearances as some of the costs that the district would be expected to cover.

One cost-effective option is for the district to employ the guest scholar in a distance learning approach where it could share a teacher with another school.

The guest scholar would use state-of-the-art distance learning equipment located at BCIU.

Brandywine Heights, Twin Valley and Wilson are schools in Berks County that currently participate in the program.

“The quality of the candidates that are available to the districts in our region is considered outstanding,” Bill Miller, director of the office of Innovation and Technology, said.

School directors are expected to vote on the proposal in December since the official request to solicit a candidate for the interview and selection process begins in January.

Latin, German and Spanish are currently offered at Hamburg Area.

Dr. Lambi sees mandarin Chinese as a natural choice for the next language.

“China is the most populous nation in the world and one-fifth of the planet speaks Chinese,” Dr. Lambi said. “China will play a major role in world affairs in the future.”

School directors met in executive session prior to the meeting to discuss contracts. No details were available.

School director Natalie Snow was absent.

The next meeting of school directors will be on Monday, Nov. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the James A. Gilmartin Community Room.