Arizona Republic
December 8, 2006

Estimated printed pages: 2

The concept is a no-brainer.

Schools should be preparing students to succeed in the "real world" of the future.

But putting that concept into practice is often easier said than done. It takes money, a lot of research and often a break from tradition to prepare for the world 20 years from now.

Mesa's school district is making that commitment by investing in Mandarin Chinese language courses. Thank goodness Gilbert Public Schools is looking to do the same.

During a recent trip to the town's Sister City of Leshan, China, Gilbert schools Superintendent Brad Barrett noted the humongous role that China plays in business and industry across the globe.

Barrett expressed a strong interest in offering Mandarin Chinese language courses at the high school level as he delivered educational accounts of the trip during a Gilbert Town Council meeting in November.

That sounds like a good way to help students prepare for emerging career opportunities.

The district is realizing that the "real world" is changing. Graduates of the Gilbert district can't simply leave school with a firm grasp of the three R's and expect to excel in the job market, especially with their Mesa counterparts having the chance to expand their cultural horizons. They need to have global experience and perspective.

That's where Mandarin Chinese courses come in.

China is the world's most populous country and emerging superpower. If the U.S. wants to compete with -- and do business with -- China, we all would do well to understand the country's values, beliefs and culture.

That's why Barrett is right to expand the district's offerings of foreign languages to include Mandarin Chinese with the opportunity for students to travel to China.

Granted, we're not saying every Valley high school graduate should be a pipette-wielding Chinese speaker.

But what we are saying is that Gilbert gets it in terms of offering students additional course options to better prepare them for emerging jobs in the global economy. Barrett understands that the district has an integral role in creating tomorrow's workforce and that its programs can be economic development tools. It could be a great thing for Gilbert, maximizing the benefits of the town's exchange program into the school district.

Other Valley districts are doing it.

Gilbert Public Schools is smart to follow suit.

The "Our View" editorial below represents the opinion of The Republic's Southeast Valley Editorial Board, whose members are: General Manager Paul Maryniak, Editorial Page Editor Bob Schuster, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Gary Nelson and Editorial Writers Joanna Allhands, Patricia Biggs and Cindy Hernandez. If you have questions about the Opinions pages, please call 480.516.0101.

CAPTION: Superintendent Brad Barrett wants schools to offer Mandarin courses.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Gilbert Republic
Page: 42
Column: OUR VIEW

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Record Number: pho160696316