By Sarah Geegan, Lea Mann
Hanban, the Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing, has designated the University of Kentucky Confucius Institute as the official Chinese proficiency test center for the state of Kentucky.
The HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) and the YCT (Youth Chinese Test), are proficiency exams that rank Chinese language learners on different levels of mastery.
The HSK assesses non-native Chinese speakers’ proficiency in using the language in daily, academic and professional environments. The test contains both written and oral sections, ranking speakers into six different levels in writing and three different levels in speaking.
Chinese universities will use the HSK test results for enrollment; by taking this exam, U.S. college students become eligible for short-term and long-term scholarship to study in China. Chinese companies will also utilize the HSK scores for recruitment of overseas employees.
The UK Confucius Institute HSK testing center may start their first testing as early as May 2012.
The YCT test is designed to encourage Chinese language learning among elementary, middle school and high school students. The test assesses proficiency in using Chinese language in daily and academic environments. Like the HSK, it consists of two sections —written and oral — but students are ranked on four different levels in writing and two different levels in speaking.
After taking the YCT, U.S. high school students are eligible for scholarships to travel to China for study tours. Elementary schools in Fayette County and Woodford County have started to administer the test trial.
"From the point of view of infrastructure, UK is the flagship university of the state of Kentucky, and Hanban, UK Confucius Institute's funder, clearly knows this," Huajing Maske, director of the UK Confucius Institute, said. "Our land grant status and the fact that through the land-granting UK has the presence in Kentucky's 120 counties are very important factors for why we were chosen."
The UK Confucius Institute was established in 2010, and since, through its many programs and partnerships, has worked to enhance the understanding of Chinese language and culture in schools, universities and communities throughout Kentucky.
"Hanban sees the potential of our UK Confucius Institute to reach out statewide through UK's extension offices in the 120 counties," Maske said.
The Confucius Institute has assisted several UK colleges with China initiatives and exchanges, while also partnering with local school districts.
"Our outreach to local schools through a cooperation project with Woodford County Public Schools and through other forms of cooperation with the local educators has yielded great results," Maske said. "And over 2,000 students in Woodford County are learning Chinese because of the UK Confucius Institute's effort."
The institute offers many classes in Chinese language and culture to the general public and, through the support of the UK College of Education, has established a program with Woodford County public schools to establish Chinese language and culture curriculum. The Chinese program at Woodford County currently boasts 2,400 enrolled students, including all four of the elementary schools, three of the middle school classes and two high school classes.
The school district coordinates with the UK Confucius Institute to bring native Chinese speakers to teach classes on two-year rotations. Mike Stacy, chief academic officer of Woodford County Public Schools, said that learning Chinese is extremely beneficial to students.
"A lot of developmental processes are improved with learning a foreign language at a young age," Stacy said.
Stacy also said that it will be economically helpful for students to know Chinese in the future.
"For Woodford County, our intention is to maintain a relationship with the Confucius Institute, moving toward a full implementation of K-12," Stacy said.
With UK serving as the official test site, Maske said that the UK Confucius Institute's impact in promoting education in Chinese language and culture will expand even further.
"We are honored to be designated, and we believe that our designation is reflective of the important work that we do for the state of Kentucky," Maske said.