By Susanna Capelouto, CNN Radio
Listen to CNN Radio's podcast on learning Chinese in U.S. schools from Susanna Capelouto.
(CNN) About 75 students at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Tennessee, finished their first semester of Mandarin Chinese. Hillsboro Principal Terry Shrader says the inaugural class has been a success.
"We feel like, with the flattening of the world economy, that students who are able to learn some Mandarin and learn something about the Chinese culture have a leg up when they move into college and eventually the work force,” Shrader says.
Hillsboro offers the International Baccalaureate, a specialized high school diploma that focuses on global and cultural skills. Students here have to take a second language; until this year only Spanish and French were offered.
“We have a really strong world language department,” says Shrader, “but we can only expand when we have the resources.”
Those resources came from Chinese Ministry of Education though the Confucius Center at the University of Memphis. The center promotes Chinese language and culture at the university level and at high schools, says Dr. Hsiang-Te Kung, who runs the center.