(Credit: Dallas ISD)

(Credit: Dallas ISD)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — At an age when most students are learning to count, memorize the alphabet, and color between the lines, the Dallas Independent School District is introducing a new subject to a number of pre-K students: Mandarin Chinese.

“At this stage, it’s mostly enrichment. We are enriching the pre-K curriculum,” said Elaine Lee, a language instructor at Lanier Expressive Arts Vanguard.

Mandarin has been in the district’s curriculum the past few years, but only available to middle and high school students. The program was extended this year to more than 300 pre-K students in five elementary schools.

“You hear it all the time, we live in a global society, all of us instantly connected around the world with the click of a mouse or the touch of a button,” said Elda Rojas, Dallas ISD World Languages Director. “By the time these students graduate from high school, they will be better prepared to be successful in a multilingual, interconnected global society.”

The pre-K students are learning the Chinese language and exploring the culture by connecting pictures with common Mandarin phrases. The district also says that by learning a language, students are developing critical thinking and problem solving skills, skills that will help students “build a solid foundation that will benefit them throughout their education and beyond.”

(Credit: Dallas ISD)

(Credit: Dallas ISD)

The district’s goal is to expand the program each year and “create a continuous pipeline through grade 12, so that by the year 2020, students entering the ninth grade will be fluent in three or more languages–English, Spanish and at least one other language,” said Rojas.

Lanier students, along with students from George Washington Carver, Paul L. Dunbar and J.J Rhoads learning centers and Stevens Park Elementary, are currently involved. Through the Imagine 2020 initiative, 21 elementary schools in the Madison, Lincoln and Pinkston high schools feeder patterns will receive additional support and instruction time.

The Dallas ISD currently offers eight languages to students: English, Spanish, French, Latin, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and American Sign Language.

“Our educational system must take the lead in ensuring graduates are 21st century, world-class citizens who are culturally fluent, multilingual as well as college and career ready,” emphasized Rojas. “The time to start students on a global path is during their early years.”

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