The story appears on

Page B4

May 28, 2019

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Education

How to unlock the transformative power of Chinese fluency for your child

For parents living in Shanghai, giving their child a strong foundation of Chinese language skills is a common and important goal. Learning Chinese benefits children in the areas of brain development, cultural competency and interpersonal skills, and it provides them with significant advantages when applying to university and beyond. However, to gain all of these incredible benefits, parents must choose a school which can offer the experience and resources to unlock their child’s potential.

At one school in the city, Yew Chung International School of Shanghai (YCIS), which is renowned for having the longest-running and most robust Chinese language program in Shanghai, a number of key advantages help provide its students with an edge in learning Chinese.

A culture of co-teaching

Since first introducing Shanghai to co-teaching, in which two fully-qualified co-teachers, one native English-speaking teacher and one native Chinese-speaking teacher, share equal authority and work together to create the bilingual setting for students, YCIS has been leading the way in providing the optimal environment for language acquisition. With co-teachers in each Kindergarten and Primary classroom, students discover the value of cross-cultural communication, collaboration and negotiation.

A dual-language learning environment

Boosted by this co-teaching philosophy, children have the incredible opportunity to learn in an immersive dual-language environment and to interact with their peers and teachers in two languages. The flexibility of switching between English and Chinese regularly from an early age becomes a habit for the students, creating a higher ability to solve problems and to adapt to different people and environments.

Students in the school’s Early Childhood Education program are encouraged to learn through play while speaking both languages. Isabel Xu, the Chinese co-principal at YCIS Puxi, described how YCIS’ students absorb the language, saying, “Our students aren’t merely learning Chinese in isolation; they are exposed to it constantly. The language acquisition process is totally natural — like learning a mother tongue. Rather than translating the words in their heads, they begin to think in Chinese, too. This ability is also hugely important in terms of how they adapt to and understand Chinese culture.”

A team of high-level educators

As the foundation of a child’s language learning experience begins with their teachers, YCIS has cultivated a team of expert teaching staff with a combined experience of over 1100 years. According to Co-principal Xu, “We have very experienced Chinese teachers, some of whom have been with us for more than two decades. They understand the school’s philosophy, have a direct hand in innovating the curriculum, and, most importantly, know how to help children acquire not only language skills but also a deep understanding of Chinese culture. This combination of experience and knowledge sets us apart from other programs.”

A tailored curriculum to suit every child’s needs

When it comes to language learning, particularly in an international school setting which will have a student body varying from those with zero prior knowledge of Mandarin to native speakers, a tailored curriculum is essential to support and challenge each child in their language learning journey.

For students in YCIS’s Primary and Secondary programs, the school offers classes in both Chinese as an Additional Language (CAL) and Chinese as a First Language (CFL) to best cater to each students’ learning stage. The school then has up to 14 levels for the students to work through, providing a truly-tailored Chinese language learning experience.

A pioneering language research division

Being able to support every single student’s learning in such a customized way comes from years of experience. YCIS prides itself on the scope and depth of its curriculum, which is produced by the school’s pioneering language research and development arm. According to YCIS Pudong Chinese Co-Principal, Mary Yu, “Our Chinese Curriculum Research Division provides a systematic approach to Chinese curriculum design for the schools across the entire YCIS network. It is no mean feat, but the effort is entirely worth it, as if we were to pick and choose parts of other curricula, we wouldn’t have such a cohesive program, nor would we see such exceptional results from our students.”

A focus on emphasizing culture
in action

For students to truly master a language, they must also understand the related context and culture. Co-principal Xu reflected the school’s strong emphasis on Chinese culture, saying “Language is the vehicle, but the driving force behind how our students truly grasp the language is their core understanding of Chinese culture.” In addition to weekly Chinese Culture Studies classes, the students have a myriad of off-campus learning including visits to local museums, historical landmarks and galleries, and the Secondary students travel to destinations around China to experience the wealth of history and modernity on offer.

This integrated learning model helps students develop their critical thinking skills and see the links between their learning in all subjects. “The knowledge our students learn in school needs to connect to the real world. It is much more than a regurgitation of learned facts about ancient literature or rote memorization of Chinese characters. The learning outcomes for our students are meaningful and tangible,” said Co-principal Yu.

A bright future for all graduates

For YCIS students, the results of the school’s Chinese program are clear: 52 percent of Secondary graduates earn a bilingual diploma on average, and every year there is a long list of acceptances to top universities around the world.

Furthermore, feedback from alumni has demonstrated that graduates of YCIS tend to find assimilating into new cultures and environments easier than many of their peers, and they also work well with students from different backgrounds. “We are always pleased to hear feedback from our alumni about the benefits they gained from receiving such a multicultural and bilingually-focused education. And the feedback is clear that in studying Chinese at YCIS, in addition to incredible language skills, they also developed empathy, compassion, and profound respect for other cultures, which is a lifelong benefit,” added Xu.

And for parents, having their child study at a school like YCIS, which truly ascribes to the cultural, developmental, and academic benefits of language learning, they can rest assured that this will set their child on the path to fluency, a plethora of opportunities for their future, and a world without borders.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend