University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is seeking new ties with future applicants and alumni in China, according to its Chancellor, Gene Block, at the UCLA Global Forum held in Beijing in late 2015. UCLA, as one of the top 10 American schools with the largest group of Chinese international students, has established cooperative connections with top Chinese higher education research institutes, including Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Zhejiang University, Fudan University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Back in the States, the UCLA Confucius Institute plays a crucial role in providing Chinese language and culture training in the California K-12 public school system.
Apart from partnerships between US and Chinese higher education institutes, elementary, middle, and high schools in Los Angeles have boosted the number of Chinese language programs with the help of UCLA’s Confucius Institute. Broadway Elementary, located in west Los Angeles, launched a Dual-Language Immersion Program in English and Chinese since September 2010. Emerson Middle School, Granada Hills Charter High School, and another 10 schools in Los Angeles also have Mandarin programs and Confucius classrooms. From the 2004/05 school year to the 2007/08 school year, the number of K-12 public school students in California learning a Chinese language climbed over 60%, from fewer than 8,000 to 12,710. Chinese is quickly becoming the next most spoken non-English language after Spanish, with nearly 2.9 million speakers, and that number may grow now that there are at least 50 Chinese language immersion programs in US K-12 schools.
During President Xi Jinping’s visit to United States in September 2015, President Barack Obama and President Xi both affirmed the objectives of the “One Million Strong” initiative, aiming to have one million American students studying Mandarin by 2020. The “One Million Strong” goals also include increasing the number of Mandarin language teachers in the United States, developing accessibility of language teaching in underserved communities through technology support, and creating opportunities for US students from all backgrounds to learn Mandarin and understand China.
Zhengqi Wang is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and is a student at American University.