The University of Connecticut will start offering what is believed to be the only full teacher preparation program in Mandarin Chinese in January.
“We are excited,” Sarah Barzee, chief talent officer for the state Department of Eduction said Wednesday as the proposal was fast-tracked through the state Board of Education for unanimous approval.
Already with what officials say is a robust World Language program, UConn would include Mandarin to a program that already turns out teachers of French, Spanish, German, Italian and Latin.
The program would start small, with three to five students per class in each of the first couple of years.
They expect 3-5 per cohort for the first couple of years, as they get this program up and running. It will take five years for students to go through the traditional integrated bachelor-master degree program or a year and a summer to go through a Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates. Candidates in the TCPCG program will need a bachelor’s degree in Chinese or the equivalent.
Chinese is the fourth most prevalent non-English language spoke at home. It is also the fourth most taught foreign language taught in schools across the country with more than 227,000 students enrolled, according to Michele Back, an assistant professor in UConn’s Neag School of Education.
Finding certified teachers in the subject, however, remains an issue. Many districts, Back said, will employ native speakers as temporary hires to offer instruction.
“We saw preparing teachers to teach Mandarin Chinese as a big need for schools in Connecticut and we look forward to fulfilling that need,” Ann Traynor, director of advising and certification at the Neag School of Education, said.
The state’s Office of Higher Education’s Alternate Route to Certification offers a certification program for Chinese instruction, but UConn will be the only traditional higher education program in the state to offer it, state officials said. in Connecticut.
World language teachers is on the state’s list of critical shortage areas.
Katie Moirs, a program approval coordinator for the state, told the state board that the one issue her team of evaluators had was to make sure UConn had the right faculty to develop the program.
“Madarin Chinese is not a romance language. It is not as easy to learn as Italian or Spanish,” Moirs said. “They brought in some very impressive resumes of native speakers of the language.”
Joe Vrabley, a board member and owner of a steel processing company in Glastonbury, called it one of the major languages in the business world.
The plan is for UConn to start marketing the program this summer and they expect some current students at UConn may be candidates for it.