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Learning Chinese prepares children for 21st century
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Learning Chinese is valuable beyond just mastering a second language skill, but it is preparing our children for the reality of the 21st Century, says Chicago Public School CEO on Saturday in Chicago.

Terry Mazany, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public School, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview, "It is important that our young people are prepared for their future in which China will play a very important role."

Mazany was appointed interim Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) by Mayor Richard M. Daley on November 16, 2010. He comes to CPS with a distinguished career in education and public service.

Chinese president Hu Jintao visited Chicago Confucius Institute which is located at Walter Payton College Prep. on January 21 during his two-day visit to Chicago. Mazany still fondly remembers the details of this successful visit.

He told Xinhua, "I was there when China' s President Hu was visiting Walter Payton College Prep. We were very honored that President Hu chose our school district and our school to visit. I see it as a tribute to Mayor Daley' s vision ten years ago. He understood the role that China would play in the world. "

He further recalled, "President Hu took the time to go to our Chinese language class. He was supposed to be here for 30 minutes but spent an hour instead. He was talking to the students and got so engaged. "

When asked about how the students felt about the visit, Mazany said, "Our Chinese language students were speaking Chinese with President Hu in the class. They had a delightful dialogue. It was a very personal experience. Our students understood how special that opportunity was to talk with, and in the same room shake hands with the president of the most populous country in the world. "

He continued, "This experience gives our students an understanding of why it was important that they pursue their Chinese study. It demonstrates why this matters. The world is watching what we are doing. "

One of the challenges for Chinese language programs is to attract qualified Chinese teachers. When asked about this question, Mazany said, "We are able to keep growing and attracting wonderful Chinese teachers from China and from the area. We are large enough now that we are like a magnet attracting the best people. "

He is also pleased with the Chicago Confucius Institute which is headed by Jane Lu. It serves as a great resource center for Chicago Public School Chinese language program.

During the visit, President Hu extended an invitation to members of the faculty and students from Walter Payton to visit China in summer holidays. Mazany called this invitation "an extraordinary honor" .

He added, "In our partnership with China, it is really valuable that we can have exchange programs for our students. It helps bring their Chinese language and culture learning to life."

Looking into the future, Mazany is ambitious and optimistic about the language programs of Chicago Public School.

He said, "We will continue to grow our Mandarin language program and all of our other language programs. It is imperative that every child from Chicago Public School graduates with multilingual abilities."

Chicago Public Schools is the third largest school district in the United States. Its Chinese language program began in 1999. Currently, 42 schools teach Chinese, including 25 elementary schools and 17 high schools. About 12,000 students are enrolled in the program which makes it the largest Chinese program in the United States and North America.

(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2011)

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