HISD to open Chinese immersion school in 2012

December 15, 2011 5:03:49 PM PST
Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, and soon, the Houston Independent School District will open is first Chinese immersion elementary school. It's all designed to give young students a leg up in a competitive world.

Chinese may be a foreign language, but for the fourth graders at Kolter Elementary, it's no foreign concept. Counting in Chinese is old hat to Cameron Meisenbach and his classmates. Many have taken Chinese since kindergarten.

"They are so amazing; just makes me impressed a lot. They learn very fast," teacher Wen Chen said.

But HISD has bigger plans then just a class a day. With China emerging as an economic force in the world, the school board just approved the formation of its first full Chinese immersion school.

"To have a foreign language not only gives you an edge when you're applying for college, it gives you an edge when you're looking for a job, it gives you an edge when you're in a job and you're able to communicate; it also makes you smarter," HISD trustee Harvin Moore said.

Cultural education, like Chinese dance classes, will be part of a multidisciplinary approach in the immersion school.

"I think it's critical in the business world not just to have the language, but the cultural knowledge, and really with an immersion program, it's built in," said Martha Blackwelder, executive director of the Asia Society.

The school will be based here at the former Holden Elementary, and it's scheduled to open in time for the 2012 school year.

It's music to the ears of friends Shelby Hardin and Miriam Handel, who say learning Chinese is fun. And for these kids already soaking it all in, they can't wait for more students to join them.

Parents interested in enrolling their children in the immersion school can apply through HISD's magnet program.


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