Last night, School District 220 gave us all a new reason to celebrate the benefits of living here in Barrington. The school board voted to accept a $1.5 Million 5-year federal grant that will fund Chinese language instruction in grades kindergarten through 5. That makes District 220 the ONLY SCHOOL DISTRICT IN ILLINOIS to receive federal funding this year for Chinese curriculum. As the mother of two young children in Barrington and as a Realtor who helps people buy and sell homes here, I think this news is totally 真棒!
The $1.5 Million federal grant must be matched by the district. But it will prepare K-5 students for the existing 6-12 Chinese language program, funded by a 4-year $222,000 grant awarded to Barrington schools by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2009.
The man behind this grant money is Barrington High School World Languages Department Chair, Todd Bowen. Todd applied for these grants and says District 220’s new Chinese language program “puts Barrington 220 among the leaders in language education in the United States.” According to a recent Newsweek article, which you’ll find by clicking HERE, just 50,000 of the 40-million foreigners now learning Chinese are in the U.S. and only 4% of the country’s middle and high schools offer Mandarin instruction, the main tongue spoken in mainland China. Todd says, “China’s place in the world has significantly shifted in the last few years and will continue to do so. Developing Chinese language skills and cultural understandings will only enhance the opportunities for our students.”
He also stresses that age is an important factor in learning the Chinese language. “It is often stated that Chinese takes about four times as long to develop proficiency as a romance language so it is important to start early.”
The full Chinese Immersion program is planned to begin at Barbara B. Rose Elementary with kindergarten and first-grade in the 2011-12 school year. It also includes a partnership for continued studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A student enrollment process is not yet finalized and the school board will review school site, funding and transportation logistics annually.