East Bay Mandarin Immersion elementary options

I'm exploring Mandarin immersion elementary schools for my son for kindergarten in the fall and would love to hear about parents' experiences and opinions on the differences between Yu Ming, Shu Ren, and the West County school. I've done virtual visits, but it's hard to get a real sense for the school culture without seeing it in person. A few areas I'm curious about:

  • Different level of resources available given private / charter / public funding models?
  • Any thoughts on the differences between the 90/10 immersion model and 50/50 in terms of both Chinese and English proficiency?
  • General attitudes about learning? I'm new to the "inquiry-based" model vs. the traditional classroom setting that I grew up in
  • Differences versus a neighborhood school since students are coming from across the region
  • After school programs
  • Anything that you wish you knew about the schools before you enrolled?


Hopeful Mandarin immersion parent

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Hi. We enrolled in shu ren for our kindergartener. Like everyone else we also applied to yu ming but its nearly impossible to get in. We live in berkeley, and liked shu ren’s academics and approach to learning. They really seemed to do a good job with group based learning and creative activities. The director is so responsive and their dedication to in person learning was also important. We realized early on that the school was not a good fit for our child however and did leave mid semester. The immersion was too much for our child, who was not as proficient with english letters, writing and reading as i think they should be in order to handle immersion. We are not a chinese speaking family however, which obviously would make this easier. We also had limited communication initially from the actual teachers about the obvious problems that were occurring with regards to our child’s learning. And there was no mention ever of social skills and development. They don't have resources for learning differences and there was also no community development within the K class. 
our feeling of the school is that its likely great for kids who are academically advanced and/or speak chinese at home. I think its really important to think individually about your kids and their needs. Our kid is thriving at a non immersion school now, and has made huge strides in the areas of struggle when in the immmersion environment.  Public schools also have far more resources for students and far more diversity in needs as well. But if immersion is the priority i think its great you have these options.

Love Shu Ren so far.  Really kids centric.  

Hi! I'm a parent at West County Mandarin School (WCMS) and have 2 kids attending. Here are my thoughts on your questions:

  • Private schools are always better funded because they are funded by the tuition costs. That said, I'm a strong proponent for public schools because I think you can still get a high quality education with the added bonus of diverse students, which now more than ever is important for all humans. At WCMS, the school community is very diverse, tight-knit and works closely together to close any gaps in funding provided by the school district. Most of our enrichment programs are funded by grants and others are funded by 2 main school fundraisers a year. WCMS offers art instruction (in connection with Richmond Art Center conducted in Mandarin), dramatic arts, music, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) Lab equipped with a laser cutter and 3D printer, social emotional learning programs, spoken word poetry, and more.
  • My eldest child started at WCMS with the 90/10 model in kindergarten, while my youngest child is in kindergarten with the 50/50 model. I'm actually really happy with the amount of Mandarin my youngest is learning on the 50/50 model, even with distance learning. We don't speak Mandarin at home, and from what I've seen, my youngest's Mandarin progress has been similar to my eldest child's, but his English reading and writing is further along than my eldest child's was at this same time in kindergarten. This may have something to do with each kid's strengths and abilities, but this is my personal anecdotal observation.
  • My kids have both made strong friendships with kids at school. They play after school at the play yard or in the STEAM Lab, and we meet up with friends at parks in the area for bike rides and such. I don't think it's been an issue not being a neighborhood school.
  • WCMS offers on-campus before and after school programs starting at 7am and ending at 6pm. The staff in the aftercare are really sweet and are well integrated into our school community. (When the PTA celebrates teacher and staff appreciation week, we include the aftercare staff as well because we see them as part of the family.) They offer rotating enrichment activities such as robotic, sports, chorus, Spanish culture, and Mandarin homework help. The cost is also very reasonable and on a sliding scale based on income. The full price is still less than many local area aftercare programs.
  • I wish someone had given me a hug and told me that it's all going to be OK. haha. Really though, your child will likely thrive at any of the 3 schools because they have a parent that clearly cares. You're already doing great by asking great questions! If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out. Good luck with your school search!

I’ve a 3rd grader at Shu Ren. We moved from 5 years in China when he started 1st grade there. He’s natively bilingual in both Mandarin and English like me and has thrived there with very dedicated, warm and supportive teachers who are well experienced in the inquiry based IB curriculum.  Among the 3 schools the biggest differences are class size and curriculum.  As the private school, Shu Ren has the smallest and likely the lowest student: teacher ratio. If Mandarin immersion is a top priority the more input the better and as young as possible, especially if there’s no Mandarin support at home. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss more. 

I have 2 kids in Yu Ming, 3rd grade and and kindergarten. My kids have done well with the 10/90 immersion. They do have an after-school program that runs till 6pm, and if there's no room there, Charles Porter golden gate rec center is right around the corner and they also offer after school care. They are opening 3 more kindergarten classes for 2021, and the enrollment ends 2/5.