Shu Ren FAQ
Below are several questions which are frequently asked by parents considering our Mandarin immersion program for their child:
Q: Why should my child learn Mandarin?
A: Our children live in a time when the world’s economies and cultures are becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent. The ability to communicate across national and linguistic boundaries will be more essential than ever. In addition, China is becoming an increasingly influential player on the global stage. Mandarin and English are two of the three most spoken languages in the world. A Shu Ren graduate will be fluent in both and therefore well-positioned to thrive in the global community of the 21st century. Additionally, studies show that bilingualism strengthens a child’s cognitive development, makes them more flexible thinkers, and benefits their long-term academic achievement. It also strengthens their social, emotional, and interpersonal development. Read more about those advantages here.
Q: Does Shu Ren use simplified or traditional Chinese characters?
A: Of the approximately 6500 commonly used Chinese characters, only about 2200 are different in terms of simplified or traditional forms. Moreover, the two language systems have always coexisted; the current versions of simplified characters are often just adaptations of ancient characters that have been used throughout Chinese history. Shu Ren teaches simplified characters. Simplified characters are much more prevalent throughout the world, as they are used by the population of mainland China and an increasing number of people in other global Chinese communities. In addition, the vast majority of written Chinese materials in print or on the Internet use simplified characters. Thus, learning and mastering simplified characters first enables our students to be able to effectively communicate with more people. It is also much easier for children to write simplified characters, so this method of teaching improves literacy among students.
Q: Shu Ren classes are small. Doesn’t it benefit my child to be in a classroom with more students?
A: Studies have shown that smaller class sizes (especially those with fewer than 20 students) benefit students’ long-term academic achievement, while reducing discipline issues in the classrooms. Small class sizes prohibit any one student from falling through the cracks, being pushed beyond their level of ability, or being held back by their peers. Shu Ren’s small class size allows for differentiated learning, where students can work and progress at their own level. Shu Ren students get a great deal of individualized attention from teachers, which benefits their overall learning experience. Studies show that students have more meaningful and positive social experiences in smaller class sizes.
Q. Why inquiry-based learning?
A: An inquiry-based curriculum is different from traditional learning methods because the focus is not on memorizing facts, but rather on asking questions, exploring the topics, and coming to one’s own conclusions. Inquiry-based learning is not teacher-directed, but is student-centered, encouraging in-depth exploration of the topics at hand. The goal of Shu Ren’s inquiry-based curriculum is to build students’ problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, to foster a love of learning, and to create enthusiastic lifelong learners. Please read more on inquiry-based learning.
Q: If my child is in a Mandarin immersion school, will they fall behind their peers in English or other subjects?
A: In any school, there is variability in student achievement in any given subject. Factors such as family, time invested, and outside exposure all play a part. We see students that consistently outperform their counterparts in general education, as well as students needing a period of adjustment. Research shows that immersion actually reinforces English language development in the long term. After three to four years, immersion students typically do as well as or better in English than their peers in general education.
Q: We speak Mandarin at home; why does my child need to go to a Mandarin immersion school?
A: Even if a language is spoken at home, most children regress or even stop speaking Mandarin as they develop socially and academically in an English environment. Immersion is important in language retention because the child learns, and interacts with peers, in the language. Furthermore, fluency in reading and writing Chinese is extremely difficult to accomplish without intensive academic training.
Q: We don’t speak any Mandarin at home; how can I support my child’s learning?
A: A school can only be successful with the support of dedicated parents. At Shu Ren, we value parent interest and desire to be a part of the children’s learning. Being a language immersion school, we anticipate that most families will not speak the language taught in school. With this in mind, the school sets expectations about curriculum before the school year and communicates regularly with parents about classroom activities and homework. We also have an after-school homework club where students can get extra help from teachers. Parents are always welcome to discuss their child’s learning with teachers. In many aspects, we don’t expect more than what a monolingual school expects from parents. For example, helping your child to get ready for school and to learn self-organizational skills, and so on. A few specific ways to support your child’s Mandarin-learning are: (1) Always be there to support your child even when they run into difficulties and challenges. Make sure that they understand that learning a new language is not always easy. But with hard work, they can be successful. (2) Work with the school to ensure that they finish their work on time in school and at home. If they don’t know how to complete a Chinese homework assignment, please make sure that they get help from school by attending the homework club after-school or asking the teachers. (3) Try to provide as many opportunities as possible for your child to be exposed to Chinese language and culture.
Q: Why does Shu Ren use the current immersion model and not 50%-50%?
A: Shu Ren employs the “full immersion” model, where Pre-K is taught in 100% Mandarin, Kindergarten and First Grade are 90% Mandarin, and a 50-50 split between Mandarin and English is achieved by Third Grade. While both immersion models have been found to effectively achieve the goals of bilingualism and biliteracy, the full immersion model has been shown to create higher levels of bilingualism. For more information, visit the Center for Applied Linguistics and the California Department of Education.
Q: Does Shu Ren use standardized tests?
A: Shu Ren students are assessed on a broad range of skills, concepts and knowledge through a comprehensive assessment policy. As part of Shu Ren’s Assessment Policy, starting in Grade 2 students take the ERB Standardized Test in the Fall and Spring Terms. ERB tests allow us to compare our students’ performance against those in public schools, private schools or other international schools. Shu Ren teachers do not “teach to the test”; we use the results to evaluate to what extent are we preparing students to be successful on Norm Referenced Tests as these are important for admission to Colleges and Universities.