Learn more about Shu Ren from local media reports:
– News broadcast on KTSF, San Francisco’s Chinese-language TV Station
– An excerpt from the East Bay Express article, “Learning in Chinese“, which profiles Shu Ren’s immersion program:
At this point, Kai Laoshi takes out a basket of little plastic linking blocks and asks if any of the students can show her, using the blocks, how many more people they now have in the classroom. And on it goes from there.
The lesson typifies the way the school deals with the Chinese language component —not as a stand-alone academic subject but rather as something that’s integrated into their overall school experience. They’re not simply learning Chinese — they’re learning math in Chinese, or social studies in Chinese.
This is a totally different approach than the one used when Chinese is taught as a foreign language, as has become increasingly common in Bay Area schools. It also differs from the way that Chinese is taught as a “heritage language” — to those who already have some ethnic or cultural connection to Chinese — at the widespread weekend Chinese schools that many adult Chinese Americans still have unpleasant memories of attending when they were growing up. Aside from the limitation of only having a half a day on a Saturday or Sunday, these weekend Chinese schools have tended to be slanted toward more old-fashioned teaching methods favored when the instructors themselves were in school in China or Taiwan — copying a list of characters twenty times, or learning a classical Chinese poem through rote memorization.
You won’t find that kind of pedantic approach to teaching Chinese at Shu Ren; in fact, you won’t find much direct language instruction at all.
“It’s language used in an authentic environment,” Moore said. “That’s what I think is the advantage of an immersion school as opposed to a weekend school or even an after-school program.”
The effect — the sense that students truly are immersed in the Chinese language — is amplified at Shu Ren, where the model is more extreme than many of the area’s other immersion schools. At the kindergarten level, students spend an average of just an hour a day being instructed in English by a separate teacher. The rest of the time is devoted to Chinese. The pre-K class is actually 100 percent Mandarin, and more English time is added as the students advance through the grades, with a 50/50 split being reached by the third grade.
The approach is borne out by research, which shows that immersing students in a language as much possible when they are young is the key to cementing their success — and also that kids at that early age can pick up a language much more quickly than adults. Anecdotally, Moore estimates that it takes only about three or four months at the school for a child with no Mandarin background to start being able to understand most of what the Chinese teacher is saying in class, assuming that he or she starts in kindergarten or pre-K.
What Do Parents Think About Our School?
“We have all read the information about how children in foreign language programs have tended to demonstrate greater cognitive development, creativity, and divergent thinking than monolingual children. This information was one of many reasons we decided to put our son in an immersion program. We looked at many immersion schools and found that Shu Ren fulfilled our language goal and just as important helped to develop the whole child – an emotionally and physically healthy, civically engaged, responsible, and caring young boy. Our son has been at the school since it opened and loves going to school!” – Andrew and MeiLan (on East Bay Express website)
“My son attends the Pre-K class and is one of the three African American students there. Prior to attendance, we worried about his being sterotyped; about his being overwhelmed with the language; and about him losing previous gains with language and math. Many of my mornings were spent watching his interactions with peers and staff from windows to ensure “my baby is okay.” What I observed was teachers being patient and consistent when he struggled, kids interacting with him based on his personality not his skin color, and a child thrilled when came home and had learned something new he could share with mom and dad. We sent my son to Shu Ren to build his future but found that it has enriched our whole family’s present.” – Andie (on East Bay Express website)
“Our Kindergartner is thriving in a warm, loving environment filled with rich learning experiences (academically and socially), a broad-based educational framework, and strong, creative and professional teachers and administrators — We couldn’t be happier and we are so grateful that we found Shu Ren. ” – Kindergarten parent (on Berkeley Parents Network)
“During his two years at Shu Ren, our son has thrived academically, socially, and emotionally. The unique child-led, transdisciplinary approach encourages children’s inherent curiosity and teaches them how to be socially-conscious, engaged citizens in the world outside the classroom. Even the youngest children are taught to ask questions and then offer their own ideas to find answers. We came to Shu Ren for the Mandarin immersion, but in the end the solid intellectual and social foundation he is acquiring there is equally as important.” – Sophie, 1st grade parent
“We are a new family at Shu Ren this year, and our oldest son is in the kindergarten class. We have been really pleased with Shu Ren and are so grateful that the school is in existence and available for our family. We recently became a transracial family and were looking for an immersion program so that both of our children could be immersed in the birth language /culture of our youngest son. We believe that a bilingual education is imperative to our children’s growth in this global world and also of huge benefit to our transracial family.
“We are particularly pleased with the individual attention our family is receiving and feel very welcome at the school. Although neither my husband or myself speak Chinese, the school does a very good job at assisting my son with his homework in the aftercare program and including us in his educational process. I highly recommend Shu Ren as a school for anyone who is looking for an excellent education with individualized attention.” – Sarah
“We chose Shu Ren for our daughter not only to give her the opportunity to learn the language of her birthplace, but also to prepare her for a future in a fully-connected, global economy. We believe Shu Ren’s balance of academics with life and physical skills is helping her to become a well-rounded, thoughtful, curious, and culturally sensitive citizen.” – Bruce & Jacky Carleton