Community members ask Cherry Hill curriculum committee to add Mandarin Chinese for 2018–19 school year
A presentation on the Cherry Hill Public Schools world language curriculum was given at the curriculum and instruction committee’s meeting on Monday night. The district plans to make recommendations on revising the world language curriculum by October.
According to ethnologue.com, there are more than 7,000 spoken languages in the world.
But there was only one language on the minds of community members who attended last Monday’s Cherry Hill Board of Education’s curriculum and instruction committee meeting.
Numerous Cherry Hill students and community members attended the committee meeting to hear an update on the district’s world language curriculum revisions and try to convince members of the board and administrators to add Mandarin Chinese.
More than a dozen members spoke during public comment at the end of the meeting, speaking about how beneficial adding Mandarin Chinese would be for the school district.
Cherry Hill Public Schools Director of Curriculum Farrah Mahan gave a short presentation on the district’s world language program, detailing a timeline the board needed to follow to make changes for the 2018–19 school year. Since the district will begin its budgeting process for 2018–19 in October, Mahan said a recommendation on the world language program must be made by then.
“If we are planning to implement a new world language, we need to have a basic framework for that language so we can start the year on the right foot in the 2018–19 school year,” Mahan said.
Currently, the district offers Spanish for grades one through five and Spanish and French in middle school. In high school, students can take Spanish, French, Latin, German and Italian. The district also offers an English as a second language program.
Mahan said one thing the district must do for 2018–19 is update the already existing world language curriculum at the elementary and middle school levels.
“For the high school level, we have updated everything in the curriculum platform,” Mahan said.
In addition to the curriculum revisions, the district could choose to add languages to its program if it wished.
Mahan detailed a number of factors the district looks at with all of the languages in its curriculum. The first factor she listed was how many students want to take a particular language.
“We need to speak about student interest and sustainability,” Mahan said. “Can we maintain a program from year-to-year with the population of students?”
Mahan also said the district needs to discuss what kind of impact adding a language would have on other languages already available, cost, resources, teacher certifications and more.
All of the community members at Monday’s meeting were in support of adding Mandarin Chinese. A number of Cherry Hill High School East students who are part of the Chinese Student Association at the school spoke about how important it is for Chinese to be added.
“We learn Spanish, French, German and Italian in our schools because we say it promotes communication and cooperation in the real world,” Cherry Hill East student Audrey Yeung said. “Why not add a language that is currently spoken by over 1 billion people as well?”
Cherry Hill East junior Lily Yang said though the Chinese Student Association has more than 70 members, very few can fluently speaking Mandarin.
“We all regret that we have not been able to learn Mandarin, and I know we’d all take the class if it were offered,” Yang said.
Currently, Cherry Hill students have the option of enrolling in the Hua Xia Chinese School on Saturdays at Beck Middle School to learn the language. The school operates independently from the school district.
Hamming Tu, principal at Hua Xia Chinese School, said the school’s enrollment has increased dramatically in recent years.
“My hope is that if we can add Chinese language into the world language program here, it will actually complement what we’re doing running the Chinese school,” Tu said. “It’s actually a mutual benefit.”
Mahan noted the district has been in contact with groups about adding languages to the curriculum. She specifically cited Chinese, Arabic and American Sign Language as examples of languages community members have asked to add. However, the committee and administration did not commit to adding any languages at the meeting.
“We’re fully committed to having a very strong world language program and making sure our students are prepared,” Mahan said.
The district plans to gather feedback from the community, board members and the curriculum and instruction office. Discussions are expected to continue over the coming months, with the next update on world languages scheduled for the curriculum and instruction committee’s August meeting. A recommendation on the world language curriculum is expected to take place in October.