Bethlehem Central expands language offerings

In the fall of 2008, Bethlehem Central students will have the opportunity to learn Chinese, positioning them for a variety of future opportunities in an age of globalization.

The district's initial Chinese offerings will include an introductory course for sixth-grade students at the middle school, and juniors and seniors at the high school. At this point, the district plans to phase in a complete Chinese sequence over the next several years.

The introduction of Chinese was approved by the Board of Education in December after months of study by a Chinese Exploratory Committee, which consisted of parents, students, administrators and teachers, and was led by the district's second languages supervisor, Marisa Bel.

In the past few years, students, parents and community members have expressed a strong interest in Chinese, and students are extremely excited about this opportunity to study it, Bel said. "Business and government leaders note China's increasing presence and influence in world affairs and global markets, and we join them in recognizing the importance of the language for our future graduates."

At the middle school, next year's sixth graders will be the first group to begin study of Chinese. Because Bethlehem Central students study the same language for all three years of middle school, the Chinese Committee recommended some guidelines for students entering the program at this level in its first year. To ensure students and their families are familiar with what entering the program will entail, current fifth grade students interested in studying Chinese next year and their parents will be required to attend one of two evening informational sessions scheduled for Feb. 6 and 11 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Bethlehem Central Middle School Library Media Center.

At this session, a Chinese teacher will introduce students and their parents to the language and its particular challenges. The sessions will also feature an overview of Bethlehem's Chinese language program and an opportunity to ask questions. Attendance at one of these meetings is mandatory for students wishing to enroll in Chinese at the middle school next year.

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