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1m Strong to boost US K-12 Mandarin study

President Barack Obama has announced a new initiative to increase the number of K-12 students in the US studying Mandarin over the next five years to one million, in an extension of the 100,000 Strong programme.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is welcomed by President Obama during his visit to the US. Photo: Instagram/@whitehouse.

Between 300 and 400 million Chinese students are learning English in China

Launched during President Xi Jinping’s recent state visit to the US, the 1 Million Strong will be managed by the 100,000 Strong Foundation, set up in 2013 to facilitate the 2010 goal of 100,000 US students going to China to study over five years – the target of which was met last year.

“There is a vast learning gap in the US when it comes to China and the Mandarin language”

A report released by the Foundation last month outlines that although this new goal is challenging, it is “both attainable and imperative”.

“Simply put, the United States cannot be truly successful without a keen understanding of China,” it says.

It also notes that “there is a vast learning gap in the US when it comes to China and the Mandarin language.”

Between 300 and 400 million Chinese students are learning English in China, according to the report, compared with just 200,000 K-12 American students studying Mandarin.

During his state visits to the US and the UK, President Xi Jinping backed the expansion of Mandarin language teaching overseas.

Obama also extolled Mandarin language learning as a route into further collaboration.

“If our countries are going to do more together around the world, then speaking each other’s language, truly understanding each other is a good place to start,” he said at a recent press conference.

In order for the target to be met, the 100,000 Strong Foundation will be working with governments and school districts around the US, as well as with technology and online education firms to ensure students have access to language study.

The president of the 100,000 Strong Foundation,Carola McGiffert, said: “By dramatically increasing the number of US students studying Mandarin over the next five years, we will ensure a greater understanding of China, create a pipeline of China-savvy employees and ensure that students from all walks of life have the skills and opportunities to compete in today’s workforce.”

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