Licking Heights' efforts to provide Mandarin Chinese language courses to its students recently earned the district a national recognition.
Superintendent Philip Wagner was invited earlier this month to the 2014 National Chinese Language Conference in Los Angeles to receive official confirmation the district was one of 15 new Confucius Classrooms in the United States.
"They want to help grow our program," Wagner said.
The College Board and Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters, partners in the effort, jointly made the announcement during the conference. Wagner said the institute covered his travel expenses.
Confucius Classrooms are local institutions that support innovative teaching and learning of Chinese language and culture.
Licking Heights will receive funding, resources and guidance as part of the network. Grants, teaching materials and support from other Confucius Classroom members will be offered to help sustain the program.
Wagner said Licking Heights started its Mandarin Chinese program two-and-a-half years ago with 15 students. The program now has 168 students.
"We expect more next year," Wagner said.
A full year's course of Mandarin Chinese first was offered to students in grades 8-12 in the 2012-13 school year. Seventh-graders could take an introductory course this year for the first time, though their participation does not count toward high-school credit.
Wagner said offering Mandarin Chinese courses is very important because China makes up 25 percent of the world's population and today's students must be prepared to work in a global marketplace.
He said it will not be long before China might surpass the U.S. in global trade.
"That's the projection," Wagner said.
Wagner said Licking Heights' language program in some ways helps "debunk some of the myths of Chinese culture."
He said the Confucius Classroom program would help Licking Heights students communicate directly with students from a "sister" school district in China and might eventually lead to an exchange-student program.