Friday, May 24, 2024

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School website includes pictures from an April trip taken by student and staff to Cambridge’s Chinese sister city, Hangzhou. The school is seeking to expand its focus on China and become a Mandarin Chinese-language immersion school.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School is seeking to become a Chinese immersion school, meaning students would be taught in English and Mandarin Chinese.

Cambridge has another school already operating on the dual-language immersion model — the Spanish-language Amigos School — but the Chinese program would have five years of partial funding from a U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language Assistance Program grant, according to Teresa Walker, a technology assistant at the school.

The reasoning behind the expansion is sound: China is considered the world’s fastest-growing economy, with some of the world’s fastest-growing cities; and Asian-Americans are expected to jump to 9.3 percent of the U.S. population by 2050, from 3.6 percent at the time of the U.S. Census in 2000. Cambridge’s universities are a magnet for Chinese scholars, just as the business environment draws collaboration with companies bases in China, and the region — starting with Boston’s Chinatown — is Asian friendly.

A report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute shows China to be the third-largest wealth generator in the world, with total household wealth of $16.5 trillion, behind only the United States’ $54.6 trillion and Japan’s $21 trillion. Total household wealth in China is on track to rise 111 percent, to $35 trillion, by 2015.

The K-8 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School already has a Chinese-language focus in its Ni Hao (Hello!) Mandarin Chinese program, in which the students get at least a half-hour of Mandarin Chinese instruction daily — learning to write in traditional Chinese, read Pinyin and speak the language. (The city’s high school, Cambridge Rindge & Latin, also offers Mandarin courses.)  In April, eighth-graders and some faculty traveled to Cambridge’s Chinese sister city Hangzhou, led by Principal Gerald Yung, a graduate of Lesley, Harvard and other schools.

“I believe that these programs offer students a great opportunity to become leaders in an increasingly globalized world,” Yung said in an interview last year on Cambridge Public School’s Chalkboard Chatter site.

The program expansion needs approval by the School Committee. If approved, it would begin at the junior and senior levels of kindergarten in the school year starting in 2011.

First comes a 6:30 p.m. Oct. 25 information night at the school, 100 Putnam Ave.

The school’s partners in developing the program are the China Center of the Confucius Institute, the Applied Linguistics Department at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and Learning Innovations at WestEd in Woburn.

To contact Yung, who serves as project director as well as principal, call (617) 349-6562, ext. 150, or send e-mail to [email protected].

This post drew significant amounts of information from a press release.