Mandarin program continues in Shoreline Schools - but there's a catch

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Shorewood students who have taken Mandarin classes
since childhood with teacher Hua Zhang
By Diane Hettrick

Shoreline Public Schools, which had considered dropping its Mandarin language program due to low enrollment, is offering courses for at least the next two years, but conditionally.

Mandarin 3 will be built into the Shorewood High School schedule for the 2018-2019 school year to support the current second-year students through their third year in the language.

Mandarin will be added back into the secondary (middle and high schools) course catalogs next year. Both 7th and 8th-grade students will have the option to register for this class in the 2019-2020 school year.

Here's the catch: the district requires a full class of students to register in order to offer the class. There would be no guarantee from year to year that the class would be offered.

The district explains:
A full class of students will need to register for the class at either grade level for which it is offered in order for students at that grade level to take the course. 
For example, if 28 7th grade students register for Mandarin 1 and 10 8th grade students also register for Mandarin 1, the 8th-grade students would be encouraged to enroll in their second choice language because Mandarin 2 would not be available for a class of just 10 students when they enter high school. 
Offering a Mandarin class at each level (i.e. Mandarin 1, Mandarin 2 and Mandarin 3) will be enrollment and staffing dependent from year to year with each registration process.

Parent John Higgins pointed out that Shoreline Public Schools shouldn’t assume that low enrollment for Mandarin reflects a lack of interest. 

Higgins commented "Sometimes kids don’t know they’re interested until they’ve tried it first."

Shorewood Mandarin students displaying their
Chinese poetry and art with substitute teacher Hua Zhang

According to School District policy, "The board recognizes the value of preparing students to be global citizens with the skills to communicate in English and other world languages." In addition to Mandarin, the district currently offers French, Spanish, and Japanese.

The Mandarin courses depend on enrollment but the School District points out that they do not promote one course over another. So parents of children in the current Mandarin classes are taking on the task of marketing the classes.

In a flyer the parent group is distributing, they make the following points (bulleted):
  • Chinese has become the most spoken language in the world – 1 in every 6 people speak this language. This means that by learning Chinese you can potentially talk to about one fifth (more than 1 billion people) of the global population.
  • Chinese is one of the six official UN languages – the others being English, Arabic, French, Russian and Spanish.

One recent study says that 40 percent of Washington state’s total job market is tied to international trade and China is the United States’ biggest trading partner. And China is fast becoming a global leader.

  • Knowing Chinese may give you an edge when competing for an important position at work and/or provide you with more potential business opportunities. According to Bloomberg, China’s economy is expected to surpass the U.S. economy by 2032.

Mandarin Chinese New Year's card
People who are in a position to see what is coming are making sure that their children and grandchildren learn Mandarin Chinese.

  • Facebook CEO / Founder Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ children, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, former US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, two of Joe Biden’s grandchildren, Ivanka Trump's children.

Information on world languages is included in the registration guide for the four secondary schools.

Registration is somewhat individualized for each school though they have common course guides. Much of registration is handled within the schools with counselors working with students and families. Here are links to the enrollment / registration pages for each individual school.

If you have questions about enrollment or registration, the easiest thing to do is to call your school. The website isn’t necessarily going to have answers to all the questions that might come up with this complex process.


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