Are Chinese-English Bilingual Schools the Future of Primary Education?
Globalization continues to gather pace despite resistance in some parts of the world. Unfortunately, the educational institutions in developed countries have struggled to keep pace with the changing face of 21st-century life. The challenges now facing young people in developed nations are unprecedented, which is why school children need a well-rounded education that has real-world relevance. To that point, there is an upsurge of popularity for bilingual education in the United States and Europe.
Antonella Sorace from the University of Edinburgh said:
“Many parents fear their native language is an obstacle, a problem, and if they abandon it their child will integrate better. We tell them they’re not doing their child a favor by giving up their native language.”
Linguists across the world believe that being fluent in a second language is about much more than the ability to communicate with people from other parts of the world.
United States Immersive Bilingual Education
In the United States, 200 schools are adopting a bilingual approach to education. One of these schools is Avenues “World School” in New York City. Avenues is much more than a school — it is a global network of campuses providing students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in different languages and cultures completely. They may begin their education with a 12-week semester at the Buenos Aires campus to brush up on their Spanish and move on to the Beijing campus to fully master their grasp of Mandarin. You could say this is the world’s first globalized school for an increasingly globalized world.
Europe Gets Its First Chinese-English Bilingual School
Kensington Wade is a new independent school in London and gives children their first taste of institutional education. Rather than learn Chinese as a second language, the children at Kensington Wade live and breathe Mandarin Chinese, as well as many of the cultural norms associated with the language. The school is open to students ages 3 to 11.
There are two classrooms at Kensington Wade: one for lessons in Mandarin and one for lessons in English. It is the aim of the school to split the children’s education right down the middle, ensuring they receive an immersive educational experience in both languages.
Although it’s the first of its kind in Europe, more of these bilingual schools are expected to open in the coming years. Presently, Europe is light years behind the United States when it comes to bilingual education. As China is expected to become the world’s largest economy during the next two or three decades, this approach to education is going to become increasingly popular throughout the world.
Why Bilingual Schools?
Bilingual Schools will undoubtedly create strong adults equipped to take on the growing challenges of a globalized economy. Former Secretary of Education John King highlighted the importance of bilingual education in a speech to the California Association of Bilingual Education.
“We have a growing body of research that makes clear that students who are bilingual have advantages, not only in their literacy development but the development of problem-solving skills and other areas of cognition. What we see now is that bilingualism is a gift that we can give to our students and our communities. And that is a powerful shift in our historical perspective on bilingualism. If we give students the gift of bilingualism, of multilingualism — if we give students the gift of those skills and those opportunities — they have a better sense of themselves, their community, and their future, and a better appreciation for our diversity as a country.”
The traditional, classroom-based approach to learning Mandarin is not working. The best method of teaching children a second language is to immerse them in it from a very young age completely, so expect to see countries investing more in bilingual primary education in the future.