Bringing China to Chico
The community outreach program was originally designed for children of Chinese descent, to teach them the Chinese language and about their cultural heritage. Now 30 children of various cultural backgrounds, ages 5 to 12, meet on campus every Saturday to learn the language and have fun learning about the country with a teacher from China. They practice using chopsticks, sing traditional Chinese songs, and do other activities designed to foster crosscultural understanding.
Additional courses are taught two days a week at local elementary schools, Marsh Junior High, and Chico High. All are taught by teachers who traveled from China to work in the program.
“It is important for students to get to know different cultures starting from a young age,” says Aimin Lu, volunteer teacher in the program. “It will help them, when they grow up, to understand and respect a culture that is different from their own. I regard it as a great reward to see that my students, with or without a Chinese background, are interested in learning the Chinese language and culture, and are eager to learn more.”
The Chinese government agency Hanban covers most of the costs of the teacher exchanges through the International Exchange program at CSU, Chico. The College of Humanities and Fine Arts hosts the visiting teachers. Parents of the children in the classes have also demonstrated their support by donating furniture, appliances, and even places to stay to the visiting teachers. And many teachers, principals, and administrators in the Chico Unified School District have worked hard over the past two years to bring the expanded classes to local schools, says Li.
“China is playing an increasingly important role in the international arena in the rapidly globalizing and much-changed world of the 21st century,” says Li. “This makes acquiring the Chinese language, learning about the Chinese culture, and becoming knowledgeable about China in general a necessary component of the educational experience at all levels.”
The Chinese Language and Culture program is designed to meet that need in the University’s service region. It is also, says Li, a small part of an overarching plan to internationalize CSU, Chico. Internationalization efforts are designed to “produce graduates who will be responsible, knowledgeable, and productive global citizens of the 21st century,” he says. “We aim to take Chico to the world and to bring the world to Chico.”