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St. Cloud State celebrates Confucius Institute opening

Tang Beiyi reviews Chinese words with her class in May 2012 at Willmar Senior High School where she taught for the school year. Tang was one of two teachers from China that Willmar has hosted thanks to the support of the Confucius Institute. A Confucius Institute will open Tuesday at St. Cloud State University. Tribune file photo by Ron Adams

ST. CLOUD — St. Cloud State University will open a Confucius Institute on its campus on Tuesday.

The Confucius Institute can offer financial and educational support for schools offering Chinese language courses or immersion programs. It can also help build partnerships between U.S. schools and counterparts in China.

The Confucius Institute at the University of Minnesota was instrumental in helping Willmar Senior High School launch its Mandarin Chinese language program several years ago.

The opening celebration will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Atwood Memorial Center’s Cascade Room. The event is open to the public. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place in the Education Building after the opening celebration.

The Confucius Institute is made possible through a partnership with the Jilin Province Department of Education in Changchun, China, and in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Education and the Ministry of Education in China.

The St. Cloud State Confucius Institute is one of only 97 in the country and 440 worldwide in 108 countries and regions.

The University of Minnesota’s Confucius Institute awarded a five-year grant to Willmar Senior High for its Chinese program in 2009. The program started with 41 students in 2007 and had grown to 180 students in the fall of 2009, when it was designated a Confucius Classroom.

Willmar and other schools around the state had applied for a one-year grant in 2009, and the institute awarded five-year grants instead. That was done at the urging of the Chinese education officials who wanted to encourage continuity and sustainability in the programs.

The Institute has monitored progress of the programs and has offered assistance in maintaining contact with Chinese schools and in providing books, software and other teaching materials.

The Institute also was a driving force in Willmar’s being chosen in two different school years years to host teachers from China through a U.S. State Department program.

When Willmar was featured in a video about starting and building a high school Chinese program, it had been recommended by the Institute. Willmar was the only rural school included in the documentary.

The St. Cloud institute will collaborate with the Minnesota Department of Education on the licensing and professional development of teachers, especially those involved with Chinese immersion programs. There are seven Chinese full-immersion programs in Minnesota. They include St. Cloud’s Guang Ming Academy at Madison Elementary and the sixth-grade program at North Junior High School, which have partnerships with St. Cloud State.

This work could also help St. Cloud State better prepare immersion teachers in other languages as the demand grows.

The Confucius Institute will work with statewide Chinese immersion programs, Chinese second-language programs, businesses and the community on building cross-cultural understanding and partnerships. The partnership with Jilin Province Department of Education could help build partnerships within the entire province and in China, not just for the St. Cloud and central Minnesota area, but for the state of Minnesota.

The Confucius Institute is housed in the School of Education and includes a resource library, lab and conference room.

Associate Professor Kathy Johnson serves as director. She will work with Professor Lixin Zhou from Jilin Normal University, who will serve as the co-director. Funding is shared by St. Cloud State and its Chinese partners.

Chinese representatives and dignitaries have been invited to celebrate and learn about St. Cloud and area Chinese immersion programs throughout the day.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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