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Chinese Education in the United States: Players and Challenges


Yun Xiao
Published Online: 2016-03-29 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/glochi-2016-0002


Since the turn of the twenty-first century, China has emerged as the second largest economy in the world. In the U.S., Chinese speakers became the second largest non-English-speaking population, and Chinese education obtained unprecedented opportunities in both the K-12 school system and higher education. Various players have contributed to this development, with the major ones being (1) the U.S.-government funded National Security Language Initiatives (NSLI), (2) the long existing Chinese community heritage language schools, and (3) China’s Confucius Institute (CI) program. The NSLI has created a number of meaningful projects such as the Foreign Language Assistance Program, the Teacher Exchange and Summer Language Institutes Youth Exchanges, the Flagship Program, and STARTALK, in which the Chinese language is the focus. The Chinese community heritage language schools have a history of over 150 years in the U.S. and are enrolling 200,000 Chinese students (estimated), more than the U.S. K-12 schools and higher education combined. China’s CI program has established 97 CIs and 357 Confucius classrooms in the U.S., which have reached millions of American people and students. However, the present data show that there lacks a coherent language policy in the U.S. education system. Although the above players have joined forces and made great contributions to the development of U.S. Chinese education, each of them is facing significant challenges. On the one hand, NSLI and Chinese community heritage language schools are both on the sidelines of the American public school system. On the other, with CI’s fast expansion, concerns and criticisms grow regarding its role in the context of U.S. higher education. Some of the concerns have been translated into negative actions and policies.

Keywords: Chinese education; Chinese immigration; Chinese community heritage language schools; Confucius Institute; Confucius classroom; soft power; NCLB (No Child Left Behind)


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About the article

Yun Xiao

Yun Xiao is Professor of Chinese language and linguistics at Bryant University, Rhode Island, U.S.A. She has a Ph.D. degree in Linguistics. Her research interests are in Chinese syntax and discourse. Her publications include around 30 journal articles and book chapters, three co-edited/co-authored research monographs and a four-volume Chinese Literature Reading Series.

萧云是美国罗得岛布莱恩特大学中国语言和语言学教授。学历为语言学博士。她的研究兴趣为汉语句法和话语。她的著作包括期刊论文与研究专著章节近 30 篇,参与编辑和撰写的学术专著 3 本,及 4 卷中国文学阅读系列。

Published Online: 2016-03-29

Published in Print: 2016-04-01

Citation Information: Global Chinese, Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 23–50, ISSN (Online) 2199-4382, ISSN (Print) 2199-4374, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/glochi-2016-0002.

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