BANGOR, Maine — A Bangor-based educational program devoted to the study and understanding of the Chinese language and culture has been designated a Confucius Classroom by China’s Ministry of Education, according to the Chinese Learning and Cultural Center of Maine and Bangor Chinese School.
“This is a great honor for our Maine-based educational programs and will enable us to expand our teaching of Chinese language to schools and universities in our home state of Maine,” Jing Zhang, the center’s executive director, said of the program’s new affiliation.
The center’s designation as a Confucius Classroom was announced at a recent meeting at the Chinese Consul General’s Office in New York City. Cen Jian Jun, China’s consul general, presided at the session, during which the center also signed an agreement with Xin Boazhong, vice director general of education for Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China, home to Harbin, Bangor’s Chinese sister city.
The agreement clears the way for an educational and cultural exchange between the center and the province of 38 million people, Zhang said.
After a signing ceremony, a delegation from the Bangor center was taken to the United Nations for an evening reception and calligraphy exhibition. Delegation members also met with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Zhang said. She said hosts included Cen Jian Jun and Wang Ying, education counselors at the Chinese consulate.
“This fledgling relationship between our two communities and the province continues to grow and develop in many important areas, including education, art and business,” said Gerry Palmer, a former Bangor City Council chairman who has played a key role in developing the Bangor-Harbin sister city relationship.
“This growth benefits both Bangor and Harbin,” he said. “The building of trust and goodwill between our two cultures should be encouraged.”
Dr. James T. Kenny, a center board member who attended the meeting and reception, said the Confucius Classroom designation provides the Bangor educational program national and international recognition as well as resources to expand its mission of teaching the Chinese language in Maine.
It also will provide resources to support the work already being done by the Bangor Chinese School with grants from the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of State, he said.
Both federal agencies direct efforts toward a network of programs aimed at teaching languages not normally offered in American schools, he said.
The Chinese school and culture center have helped sponsor language and cultural programs in the Bangor area, including the U.S. National Language Program Initiative’s Startalk program, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, the annual Maine Chinese Conference, a Chinese New Year festival, and student exchange and language programs in a number of area schools.