Monday, November 5, 2007

The New York Times on Chinese immersion

I'm still mulling over the Chinese immersion programs. I contacted a mom with children at Alice Fong Yu. She and her husband are Caucasian and their two boys have done well at the school. "We love the school and we feel lucky to have gotten our two sons in," she said.

I asked about Mandarin versus Chinese. "If we had a choice, I think Mandarin is the better language to learn," she said. "However, both are written the same, and Cantonese is the local dominant language spoken in the Bay Area." Then she went on to say, "The AFY Mandarin classes in Middle School are exceptional. I hear that when AFY students go to Lowell High School, their Mandarin is better than other students." Hmmm...

In the midst of my confusion, I came across this November, 2006, article in The New York Times, "Non-Asians Showing a Growing Interest in Chinese Courses." The author, Winnie Hu, mentions the private Chinese-American International School in San Francisco, and writes, "Five years ago, the school was 57 percent Asian-American, but this year it is only 49 percent Asian-American...more non-Asian-Americans have been applying in recent years." Hu goes on to talk about public schools across the country that are adding Mandarin programs.

Has anyone toured the private Chinese-American school? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

13 comments:

  1. Kate, we haven't toured it because we don't have bandwidth, but we know people who send their kids there and they LOVE it. I have been meaning to suggest to you for a while that you consider checking it out. It is literally world-renown.

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  2. We didn't tour it because we've heard from various sources that it is academically quite intense. We wanted something a little less intense for K-8.

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  3. We toured it and adored it. I don't recall anything that made it seem more academically intense than other privates, but I need to find my old notebook (toured last spring) and check my notes to be sure. The school is quite innovative academically, but I;m not sure whether that translates to intense. The admissions team is very friendly and would prolly be glad to answer any questions people have. The kids seemed happy and secure (and like kids!), but you can only get so much from a school tour. In addition to increased interest in Chinese language programs amongst non-Chinese parents, the school has a relatively new admissions director (past three or four years), and I believe he has focused on bringing in more racial diversity.

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  4. Oh, and by the kids seeming like kids, I simply mean that they weren't super subdued and didn't seem to be particularly pressured, etc. I don't want my last comment to be miscontrued as saying that kids at a Mandarin program would not act like kids. Rather, I meant that I didn't see any signs from the kids that they were unhappy or under unusual pressure. Again, a tour might not give someone the most accurate read on that, but that's all I've got! Please, no slings or arrows! :)

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  5. Sorry to post so many times, but I just read the NYT article (thanks for the link, Kate!), and I must say that I did not see any class where there appeared to be as many Caucasions as Asian Americans. My guess is that a significant number of kids are racially mixed, perhaps with Asian being part of the mix, who might have identified as Mixed Race/Other on the application. CAIS seems far from becoming a predominantly Caucasion school (which one might infer from the article). The student council members who spoke at the Open House were a mix of Asian and non-Asian kids, and each spoke beautiful Mandarin (based on the laughs/cheers they got from those in attendance who could understand Mandarin).

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  6. Have you toured Starr King yet? I did, and I couldn't stop thinking about that place. It's the Mandarin immersion in Potrero Hill -- one of two in the city. Certainly, they have many challenges facing them, but they also have a superstar principal, lots of (apparently) magnetic teachers, involved parents and that special something that makes a program truly unique. If you are interested in Chinese immersion, I think it would be valuable to compare the feel and culture of such different schools as CAIS, AFY and Starr King.

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  7. I definitely plan to check out Starr King! Looking forward to it.

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  8. I plan to check out Starr King!

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  9. Thanks for the heads-up re: Starr King. It definitely sounds worth checking out.

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  10. There's also Jose Ortega, which started Mandarin immersion this past year and didn't fill its kindergarten class (which also happened to Starr King's program its first year). It seems like a wonderful school with a lot going on.

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  11. My daughter (5 year old) is currently attending CAIS. I am a Chinese, and I am very impressed with the Chinese program. My daughter is in Kindergarden, and she knows more than 50 chinese words already and she enjoys reading simple chinese stories with my help. The teachers are very innovative in teaching new words by using games. In fact, she has been reading last 20 minutes while I am sending this e-mail.

    I thought the teachers at CAIS are great. A few teachers I know stay as late as 6 or 7 pm regularly to prepare the teaching materials.

    I would say more than 70% of the parents at my daughter's grade are non-Manderin speaking. Quite a few kids already knew couple of other languages before coming to CAIS. My daughter's two best friends speak Japanese and Spanish at home.

    We love the school. Except the tuition, we really don't have anything bad to say about the school. I would highly recommend it. Feel free to send me an e-mail if you have any questions at jianmellquist@yahoo.com.

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  12. I applied to CAIS for 2008-09 pre-K. When we took our kid for assessment, I got to observe how the teachers treat the children when the parents weren't around. After the parents dropped off their 3-year-old kids in a classroom, a child was crying because she wanted her mom. One of the teachers (calmly) told the child to breathe and stop crying. A kind, gentle way to say suck it up and repress your emotions. Certainly this isn't as bad as chiding the child for crying, but I expect the kids to get more emotional support if the parents are paying expensive tuition.

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  13. Hey, when my kid is crying and having a freak out I tell her to breathe and stop crying. Guess I should just save up for her therapist later in life. Seriously, they have like 30 min to evaluate the kids and a kid who won't stop crying is probably not going to be evaluated well (or at all).

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