A Mandarin immersion charter school is proving popular in Minneapolis, reports the New York Times.
Yinghua Academy teaches all academic subjects in Chinese through fourth grade before moving to a half-English model for grades five to eight. That creates cultural understanding and “real bilingualism,” says Luyi Lien, the academic director.
“We bring together both East and West traditions,” says Lien, who tries to balance Eastern discipline with Western fun.
Just ahead of snack time in kindergarten, the teacher, who speaks only in Mandarin, thrusts an orange plastic disk in the air and 28 little hands shoot up. She points to one girl who answers correctly — “chengse” — before dashing to the nearby sink to wash her hands. In just minutes, all the students have identified a color and are happily tearing open their snacks. One 5-year-old asks, “Can you open this?” The teacher replies, “bangmang dakai?” On cue, the child repeats and then says, “xie xie” — thank you.
Yinghua, which was started in 2006, has ranked within the top 15 percent of all Minnesota public schools for the past three years on multiple measures.
Parents who choose immersion tend to be well-educated and committed to their children’s education. Forty-seven percent of students are Asian-American and 46 percent white.
Math results, which are particularly strong, are partly attributed to the Singapore Math curriculum and its eight-step approach to word problems, as well as the Chinese-educated teachers who move through material more quickly than their American peers.
Mathematical terms in Mandarin are also clearer. The word for “triangle,” for instance, “sanjiaoxing,” means three-sided. And when counting to 100, the Chinese use only 10 numbers to build all others; 71, for instance, is written 7-10-1.
China’s Ministry of Education pays for two instructors at the school as part of a campaign to support the teaching of Mandarin and Chinese culture.