Broadway Elementary California: Where Mandarin is taught at kindergarten

We blogged last week about how Britain’s monolingual children are at a distinct disadvantage, especially once they reach the job market. At the same time, one primary school across the pond in California is providing children with skills for the future by offering an immersion Mandarin language program.

Broadway Elementary School in Venice, California, established the immersion Mandarin program in September 2010, helped notably by Beijing’s education ministry, which effectively sends native-speaking teachers for free to work in US schools. The program has grown rapidly; within a year four kindergarten Mandarin Immersion classes had already been established.

In the past, many families with one or both parents from Chinese backgrounds put children into Mandarin-language schools to learn more about their cultural heritage and to communicate with extended family. Now, however, parents are increasingly citing economic and career-prospect reasons for teaching their offspring Chinese. It is also often argued that learning a second language helps increase listening ability, memory, creativity, and critical thinking.

While teaching foreign languages such as French, German, and Japanese has decreased, Mandarin has expanded across the US over the last decade. There is no doubt that China’s growing economy has fueled demand for Mandarin language skills.

The partnership between Broadway Elementary and the Beijing education ministry was crucial to the establishment and continuation of the program. And without the Chinese volunteer teachers, there would be no immersion Mandarin program.

“I wanted them to have the opportunity to be able to leave the US if they wished to go and seek employment somewhere else,” said Julie Wang, one of the parents at the school who moved to the US from Australia when she was 25.

“I did that myself – I came out here. I think it’s a great opportunity for them to experience different cultures, different ways of life, not just the one that they grew up in,” she added.

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