Chinese Language K-12 Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • Yu Ming, AIM, or Shu Ren

    Mar 7, 2024

    Hi, it's kindergarten decision season! We luckily got a spot at Yu Ming through random drawing, but we are also considering AIM and Shu Ren. Ignoring costs, if you have insights on these schools, why would you prefer one over the others? 

    Language is not a big differentiating factor here, since my kid's Chinese reading and writing are above grade level. I am especially interested in hearing your thoughts on whether kids with certain temperaments and/or learning differences would not work well with one or more of these schools

    We went to AIM for part of preschool and transferred to GMIS which was such a warm and refreshing change from the rigidity of AIM.  We are attending Shu Ren in elementary school and it has been a great expenrience so far for our different / sometimes difficult child.  Please feel free to reach out and we are happy to share more.  

    We've been at Shu Ren for several years and are shifting our child to an English-language speaking school. I like but don't love the school and I'm rooting for it to succeed. If we were staying in Mandarin immersion, we would probably pick Shu Ren over Yu Ming mostly because we think the class sizes are smaller and we think the administration would be more flexible around high energy children who are less likely to followed structured situations. Yu Ming class sizes are a lot larger; the one class I witnessed at Yu Ming had a teacher using a headset microphone to communicate with all the students. Our friends who have kids there like it, but there are some situations where the lack of resources as a public school shows up. A friend of mine has had to teach a PE class here or there at Yu Ming. 

    At Shu Ren, the head of school is really dedicated and passionate; they do have some teacher turnover issues. I can't tell whether this is a function of being a Mandarin immersion school where the labor pool is inherently thinner than it would be for an English language school. The warmness and quality of the teachers has been somewhat uneven, we had great teachers the first two years and the one in the most recent year hasn't really clicked with our child. Had they had a great teacher in the most recent year, maybe we would've continued for at least another year or sevearl. That said, we've seen our child use some conversational Mandarin (we are a non-speaking household) so that has been pretty cool. We are definitely looking for ways to continue our child's Mandarin education outside of school going forward.  

    We've really enjoyed the parent community at Shu Ren. Most of the parents I've met are really humble, hard-working and dedicated to their kids. 

  • Is there a list of public schools that offer Mandarin immersion (or duel language/learning/etc)?  I've been researching and keep hearing about the same ones, but I'd love a complete list.

    I'm specifically looking for the East Bay, Castro Valley, Oakland and Berkeley.   I know about Yu Ming in Oakland, are there others?


    Our daughter is at Shu Ren and loves it there.  Also check out

    West Contra Costa Mandarin School.  In El Cerrito, I think.

    This is the best list of Mandarin Immersion schools in the United States that I've been able to find:

    In the East Bay, the only public Mandarin immersion schools (whole school, not just one classroom per grade) are West County Mandarin School (relocating to Pinole, but open to anyone that lives within the West Contra Costa Unified School District - El Cerrito, Kensington, Richmond, San Pablo, El Sobrante, Pinole, & Hercules) and Yu Ming in Oakland. It looks like Stonebrae Elementary School in Hayward and Azevada Elementary in Fremont also have a Mandarin immersion track, but I don't know any details about it.

    Good luck with your search!

    I don’t think Castro Valley has a mandarin program, but there is one up in the Hayward Hills, at Stonebrae. If you don’t live in Hayward, you might be able to transfer in (there were lots of families from CV, Fremont, Union city, etc when my son went there). My son was in the Mandarin program there many years ago, and then attended a rigorous private middle school after that. Even though he wasn’t the most diligent student, it turned out he was very well prepared in reading, math and Mandarin when he got to middle school, so 2 thumbs up from me. Also, it’s FREE :)

  • 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

    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.

  • i am pondering a move east of the caldecott tunnel for the public schools and was wondering what the mandarin options are out there for elementary school and up? 

    do schools offer it as a lesson in elem school? an elective in high school? or just private saturday schools and tutors? 

    thank you. 

    Acalanes, Campolindo, and Miramonte all offer Mandarin - see the AUHSD (the school district that covers the 3 public high schools in Lamorinda plus Las Lomas in Walnut Creek) course catalog here:

    For middle school, it looks like Stanley in Lafayette and JM in Moraga offer it:

    Stanley's Offerings:
    JM's offerings:
    OIS's offerings (which don't include Mandarin):…

    As far as I know, none of the elementary schools offer it but that that may have changed - you can check with the respective school districts.

    Orinda Mandarin offers classes after school for elementary students and before school at the middle school. Miramonte High offers Mandarin through AP level. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Mandarin-immersion elementary schools

Feb 2012

I am interested in hearing parents' opinions on the many Mandarin-immersion elementary school options in the East Bay: Yu Ming, Shu Ren, American International Montessori (AIM), Global Montessori International School (GMIS), and Pacific Rim International (PRINTS). I have visited all of the schools and am familiar with their basic differences (public vs. private, Montessori vs. International Baccalaureate, full immersion vs. two-way immersion, bilingual vs. trilingual, temporary vs. permanent facilities).

What I am looking for is more perspectives on what your children have gained from these schools. How has their knowledge of Mandarin progressed? What about other academic knowledge (especially math)? How are their general school skills, attitude toward school, and friendships and social skills? In which areas (if any) have you chosen to supplement their education?

I would particularly like to hear from parents who can compare their children's experiences attending more than one of these schools, especially at the K+ levels. I am also curious to hear from parents whose children already were conversant in Mandarin prior to entering the school. Curious Parent

I have a 1st grade boy at Yu Ming and I am thrilled with every aspect of the school. While I speak Mandarin, I do not read or write it and my husband is not Chinese and does not even speak it. As a family, we decided not to speak Mandarin at home initially because I worked outside the home and wanted to be able to speak to everybody at one time. Basically, I got lazy. That said, we still saw the value in having our children learn Mandarin so tried some after school programs and Saturday programs but after a while, none of it seemed to be working. My kids were still just counting and recognizing a few colors.

Since starting Yu Ming in August, my son can now converse with me in Mandarin. I've started speaking to him in Mandarin at home and initially, he understood none of it. Now not only does he understand what I'm saying and asking of him, he responds and asks his own questions all in Mandarin. He has a strong interest in trying to read Chinese books and newspapers and is more curious than ever about the culture. He can recognize, read and write more characters than I can and continues to come home with new words and now phrases to add to his vocabulary. This has absolutely amazed me.

What has amazed me almost as much, if not more, is the dedication his teacher has to differentiated learning in the math curriculum. The classroom is divided up into small groups for math time and each group is working on a similar theme, be it addition, subtraction or measurements, but each group is doing work at their level and working on advancing at their own pace. I've seen kids progress from adding on their fingers to now adding single digits in their head and starting double digit addition on paper. My child is now working on multiplication tables as he has already mastered addition with carrying numbers and subtraction with borrowing. The teacher has never stopped him from learning as much as he wants and at his pace so now, in the second half of 1st grade, he is doing exactly what his older brother is doing in math at a great Berkeley public school. Again, absolutely amazing.

Best of luck with your choice. I know it's hard but I feel like we found the perfect fit for our son and couldn't be happier about how things are going at Yu Ming. Kelly

I am a firm believer of immersion education and was delighted to have so many options in the East bay, but am especially happy to have my son be at Yu Ming this year. When I toured each of the various Mandarin immersion schools, I made sure that the one I chose is a true full immersion school where children will be exposed to the maximum amount of time in the target language, since they will have more than ample opportunity to speak and hear English in the all English environment after school. School culture is also important and although it's hard to tell what that is when you tour a place, I could tell that Yu Ming parents care a lot about making this school a success...from how they started it from the ground up to the many many hours they volunteer still to the number of parents who pack the room at meetings and school functions. My child has been very happy at this new school, likes all the teachers very much, has made new friends as well as kept friendships made from kindergarten at Shu Ren, and continues to speak Mandarin with me at home while speaking English to my spouse. Although the education is superb at both schools, I still supplement afterschool hours with team sports, additional music lessons (both schools have a music program), and by continuing reading English books at home which we also did during Kindergarten last year. With improved Mandarin this year, we will try to start reading some Chinese books as well. My child especially likes the many field trips they take at Yu Ming and all the ''fun'' learning activities they do, like marshmallow math that they did last week.

To me, the differentiated small group teaching at Yu Ming allows for my child's natural curiosity to bloom as well as provides room for each subject to be thoroughly taught at each child's level. In addition, I have truly enjoyed getting to know everyone at both schools. However, I am most happy to have my child attend a school that I help build, that allows me a lot of input in what is taught, lets me help shape the school culture, and where the administrators are truly friendly people that listen and respond to parent concerns in a timely and graceful manner. Both schools will require your help in the classrooms and beyond. So, think about what you want for your child's education and how the school you choose can help you achieve that goal. I hope this helps you find the right fit for both you and your child. Parent to a happy Yu Ming Student

My son attends Shu Ren. When choosing schools, we looked at all the local Mandarin immersion programs and chose Shu Ren for three primary reasons: small class size, the IB curriculum, and the serious dedication to Mandarin immersion. My son was fluent in Mandarin before starting and we have been constantly amazed by his progress since then. He is now in 2nd grade and is writing lengthy essays, reading, and conversing fluently. I don't believe any of the other local schools can offer the high-level of Mandarin instruction that Shu Ren does. The small class size is key as teachers work with each student at their individual level and students have plenty of opportunity to engage and participate in class discussions in Chinese. The inquiry-based curriculum teaches subjects in-depth, so the students learn very sophisticated vocabulary and understanding of the topics in both Mandarin and English.

This year, two new teachers (one who is also the Assistant Head of School) have been brought on board, and the level of teaching, especially in math, has risen to an impressive new level. My son has made amazing progress in math this year. He is doing fractions, decimals, division, multi-digit multiplication, and more with ease and he really enjoys it. The math now combines the best of Chinese teaching (ie drilling of key concepts and facts, like multiplication tables) and American teaching (conceptual, practical skills) and is very effective. English is also taught on a differentiated basis so students progress at their own level and are always challenged. Several students in my son's class are reading and writing a grade level or two above their age. They also have a wonderful Kodaly music program. We have not had to supplement my son's learning at all.

Socially, the small size has been wonderful for my son's social development. The teachers know each student really well and their strengths and weaknesses, and work on building community within their classrooms. While the small class size means students have more limited options for making friends, it helps build important skills as students learn to work out differences and accept differing points of view, rather than just being able to switch to another groups of friends when conflicts arise. The students in my son's class have all become very close and he has made several very good friends. The small size also allows teachers to plan regular field trips, including overnight trips, which have become a key part of the learning process. The trips have also been a lot of fun and helped the students and teachers (and parents) forge close bonds.

In short, we are so happy we chose Shu Ren. The academics have exceeded our expectations but most importantly, our son loves going to school every day and we know he is being well-cared for in a warm, nurturing environment by wonderful teachers. happy Shu Ren parent

Dear Curious Parent:

Our daughter was already somewhat conversant before starting Yu Ming, but not because we are native Mandarin speakers at home. She had attended a Mandarin-speaking daycare, and had gained fluency (for a 3-y old), which she then understandably seemed to lose while attending English-speaking preschool. During her Yu Ming language interview almost a year ago, my daughter had a shyness-attack and may have been confused by hearing the language spoken outside of daycare and by strangers, so she said disappointingly very little; the interviewers did note that she seemed to understand some of what they had said to her. So at the start of the school year, she was only quasi-conversant.

Now we are half way through our first year at Yu Ming, and just today, I was encouraging our now 5 y.o. daughter to show off her Mandarin to a bilingual Chinese friend. I asked a series of questions in English: how would you say this in Chinese to your teacher (who only speaks Mandarin to the kids). My daughter was able to instantly give the Mandarin equivalent. (In each case, our friend nodded and smiled at me to say, yes, she interpreted and spoke correctly.)

My daughter seems to have gained a lot of confidence in using her spoken Chinese in different settings since starting Yu Ming -- the wide exposure to other families who value learning Mandarin for whatever reason helps enormously, as well as having opportunities to mingle with other families who speak to her only in Mandarin, even in social settings away from school. Yu Ming has expanded the context for her in which it's okay to use Mandarin.

Each day she sings Chinese songs as we walk into Yu Ming, -- it's a sort of transition ritual. Many of the songs were learned at home (off the internet, and from CDs), but she has also learned many new songs at Yu Ming, too.

Since the start of Yu Ming she has also learned to write many Chinese characters, which comes from daily practice in class as well as outside school hours. The amount of homework required was really a shock, but I can see the many benefits of establishing such a disciplined approach to homework so early on; IMO really worth the effort it took to get her into the groove.

Since the beginning of the year, her math skills have progressed from merely counting (English & Mandarin) to getting basic math concepts of adding and subtracting. We have reinforced all of this at home through helping with homework, and playing counting games. Of course it's a work in progress, and we have not felt the need to seek any additional support.

Yu Ming's curriculum has expanded recently and now includes music, and PE (in the form of Kung Fu). I know the children often do art projects in class, and I personally would also like to see more exploratory/expressive use of art to help develop creativity, rather than only prescribed art projects/crafts. Where my daughter once used observation and line drawing to spontaneously draw portraits (which she did at 3 y.o.) her attitude has now changed to: ''I only know how to draw certain things,'' and I often wonder if this is related to an attitude that there is a ''right way'' to write Chinese characters, and perhaps by extension, to create arts & crafts.

My daughter's social skills are developing, thanks to extra support she was given early on at Yu Ming (she's on the young side in her class). These days she often talks fondly about her schoolmates, relating the funny things they said or did, giving me the impression that she is enjoying it enormously, and is feeling pride in being a member of her class.

There is a great deal of parent volunteer involvement required (reminiscent of a co-op preschool experience). I wonder if that aspect will change as the school grows and evolves, but I also see that it has added to the richness of our experience there.

So, although I cannot make comparisons to other Mandarin-immersion programs, I do know that overall our daughter's needs are being met at Yu Ming, and that she is thriving there. I also experience the administration and teaching staff to be very caring and responsive to my concerns, and I appreciate this immensely. Eileen

I can tell you,my son was at a very reputable and progressive private school here in Berkeley, that turned out to be a very bad fit due to his teacher who just had it in for him....then we found Shu Ren International School here in Berkeley. It was night and day. Shu Ren turned his life around. Before he was crying before school (at the other place), had a LOT of anxiety and depression, but now, he WANTS to go to school. His teachers all adore him and help him succeed ( emotionally and academically). AND did I mention he speaks Chinese now? Yes. That's right, he's been there two years and he writes and speaks Chinese. Mandarin Immersion has been a real gift for him. His classes are stimulating and challenge him, and he is learning an absolutely invaluable tool: fluency in Chinese. I couldn't trust any other school with this. Totally worth the tuition to see him happy, thriving and gaining these life skills. It's a true investment in your child's future. Shu Ren family a true Mandarin Immersion School

I am a very happy Shu Ren parent with a son in the 1st grade. My son started at Shu Ren in kindergarten with no knowledge of Mandarin and has done extremely well in this environment. At Shu Ren I feel like I am getting two things for the price of one - the inquiry method and the Mandarin Immersion.

Firstly - The inquiry based learning method is amazing and my son is thriving on all counts (especially with his awareness of the world he lives in). The children spend a lot time doing hands on learning - while being in a warm and nurturing environment. His teachers have been amazing and always accessible if I need anything (as well as the administration). His math skills in particular are really high and the teacher continually challenges him without it feeling threatening. We do not supplement his education in anyway because what he is learning is already beyond our expectations. And as far as reading in English, he is slightly ahead of the curve despite him only having 20% of his time devoted to English. The English teacher encourages children to go beyond their levels, without putting pressure on them.

Secondly - The Mandarin immersion model. I am envious of all that my son is learning. The inquiry method with the immersion model is a great marriage.

Our son comes from a non- Chinese speaking household and has done exceedingly well with his Chinese and really enjoys learning another language. We have been told by many native speakers at the school that my sons Chinese is very good and he is starting to sound more like a native. He has done well with learning how to write his characters and is working on his reading in Chinese. As far as the immersion model, our son is telling us that his Chinese homework is easier then his English homework.

As far as social skills, he is doing really well. I use to think my son was shy but now see that his social skills are very good. He is in a small class and gets a lot of attention from his teachers and the other students. He has access to kids of all grades and plays well with a multitude of ages. I also have lots of play dates at my house with the kids from school

Additionally, we were accepted into the public Chinese school for 1st grade but were so happy with Shu Ren that we declined the offer. Happy Shu Ren parent

The comments last week missed an important gem of a Mandarin immersion elementary school, American International Montessori. My son and daughter attend the preschool program, and I've been observing in the elementary school, to decide whether to keep them there, now that my older one is eligible for Kindergarten. (Full disclosure: I work for a group of private schools in Orange County, so my standards are very high!)

AIM is unique as it combines Montessori with Mandarin immersion.

As a Montessori school, AIM offers a very joyful learning environment, where high academic standards co-exist with deep understanding. You just have to visit the multi-age elementary classroom and observe: I came away from my observations wanting to go there myself, to explore all the interesting materials (there are replicas of human skulls throughout evolution, a class python and other animals, lots of science materials and experiments, and a 3,000+ book library right in the classroom!) And with the Montessori approach, children learn not just content, but also key skills such as organization, time management, and self-assessment.

The head English-speaking teacher, Mark Powell, is absolutely wonderful. He has almost two decades of Montessori teaching experience, and is just amazing at providing students with firm guidance and inspiration at the same time.

The classroom is tri-lingual, with one Mandarin speaking teacher and a Japanese-speaking, AMI-trained teacher, in addition to the English teacher. The mornings have all three languages spoken, and then there is a 2+ hour afternoon period dedicated to either Japanese or Mandarin, depending on the child's program.

The program is small - just over 20 students are in one class, with three teachers - so each child gets very personalized, individualized attention. They also go on regular field trips (seems like the elementary class is on a field trip every 2-3 weeks, and they do several overnight trips every year.) There's great communications, with a weekly elementary newsletter that describes in great detail what is going on in the class, and shares lots of picture with the parents.

The whole school is truly global: they celebrate Chinese & Japanese traditions, in addition to English ones. And while AIM is pretty new (this is the 3rd year), there's a great parent community, and the school is beyond the initial start-up phase and actually very organized.

My children spoke no Mandarin when they joined, but my older one (who has been at AIM now for 1.5 years) apparently now speaks it well (I can't really tell, as neither my husband or I speak Mandarin.) There is a mix of native speakers, but also many families who don't have a Mandarin (or even Asian) background, and with the individualized Montessori approach, each child can get challenged at his or her language level.

If you are looking for a place where your child will be immersed in Mandarin and in Asian culture, but also learn academics to a high standard, all while loving to go to school, you have to pay AIM a visit! Happy AIM parent

Our daughter started Kindergarten at Yu Ming this year, after spending 3 years at an excellent Montessori pre-school (Little Elephant Montessori). She only knew a handful of words in Mandarin from her grandparents, and started with excellent reading and math skills in English. We are incredibly impressed (as is her mandarin speaking grandfather) at how much she has learned in ~6 months of immersion. She knows how to read, write, understand and pronounce well over 30 characters, and can now carry on some basic conversation in Mandarin. Her English class and homework continue to be challenging, and they are doing math in Chinese that seems very appropriate for Kindergarten. (addition, counting by 5s, pattern recognition, etc.) Yu Ming has also ensured ongoing education about culture, science, and nature. While the 1st month was a difficult transition as expected, she now loves Yu Ming and has made some wonderful friends that she loves to spend time with outside of school. The only areas we have chosen to supplement include extracurriculars such as athletics (dance/gym/soccer/swim) and this summer we plan to start piano lessons which would have been supplemental to any other school she would have attended. We also continue to read at home as much as possible in English, both allowing her to actively read and our reading to her passively. We know that we will need to do more to reinforce her mandarin over time as it increases in difficulty with various resources that the school and other parents have shared. Hope this helps, and I know many of us are happy to talk to prospective parents as requested one -on- one, just contact the school to ask. Erica

My child goes to Shu Ren International School. Although we have been to a different school you have mentioned in your list, I cannot offer a comparison, since it was preK, and now we are in elementary. However, I can offer my experience with Shu Ren.

My child is in 2nd grade. This year they get a list of 20 Chinese characters that they can practice at home. They can exchange for a new list as soon as they memorized the current list. My child went through 19 lists in the first semester. They also reads and write in Chinese in class. They get reading materials based on their level. Since we have Chinese speaking background, my daughter gets more advanced reading material. She can write in much longer paragraphs than last school year. Her handwriting has improved tremendously.

Her English is also very good. Besides the work they do at school, they also get spelling list, reading list that they do every week at home, they are all self-paced. She is at a very advanced reading level. They also write based on the topic they are learning. And their writing is very organized with a beginning, each paragraph has a central idea, and a summary ending, etc.

Math is another area that I am impressed with. They have a teacher that has taught in a language immersion school in China. In my opinion, she integrated some of the better methods they use in Chinese schools. In 2nd grade, my daughter memorizes times table, she can do multiplications with 2 digits numbers, for example 35 * 24. She can do addition and subtraction even in thousands in her head (without the help of a pen and pencil). Quite a few of her classmates is at the same math level as her. In class they break down the kids into groups based on their level, and teach them new things, and give them practices based on their level of math skills.

So overall, here is what I feel. How much we (both parents and kids) put into, is how much we get out of. And Shu Ren offers the opportunity to let them advance at their own pace, will not slow them down. With a smaller class, they get a lot more personal attention.

Of course it's not all study at school. They have a lot of fun. I have a lot to say about that, but that's not what you were asking a parent

When my child was ready for Kindergarten, I knew that I wanted a bilingual education for him. Even more importantly, it needed to be a school that has an excellent education philosophy, independent of the language immersion. It being where my child spends most of his time, it has to be an environment that I believe in as a whole. We ended up choosing Shu Ren. I was immediately comfortable with the IB curriculum, which is trans-disciplinary, and is gradually being adopted by the top high schools in the US. The students are encouraged to be thinkers and concepts are emphasized as well as concrete skills. Ultimately, I believe that these are invaluable skills that make academics more intuitive and will continue to be used throughout the studentsC,E! lives.

Our experience is that the small classrooms really enable the teachers to provide differentiated teaching for different levels. My child is in second grade and learning in-depth concepts with each unit of inquiry, in English and Chinese. Additionally, he has self-paced work in Math, Chinese and English. He's comfortable with multiplication, division, and fractions. I think that he can read just about any English chapter book put in front of him. He has also been taking home packets of 20 Chinese characters each week and advancing at his own pace. Friends and family have been surprised with the level of thinking and learning that he demonstrates.

It was very difficult to get him to speak Mandarin by the time he was 3 even though it was the language of his primary care taker. He initiates Chinese conversations with Chinese family members now. We've recently texted in Chinese when he was out of town.

Socially, his classmates all know each other well and play together. I've observed that he has been able to make new friends under different circumstances, outside of the classroom. The afterschool programs also bring different kids together from the community.

The one thing that I will say is that the school has focused most of its energy and resources on the quality of its teachers and curriculum, and not as much on making itself known in the community. I hope that this would change because what an incredible opportunity if you can take advantage of it. Happy ShuRen Parent

My children currently attend Shu Ren International School. My youngest started in Pre-K and is now in Kindergarten and the eldest started in Kindergarten and is now in 2nd grade. We love Shu Ren and the IB program works for them. Before Shu Ren, my eldest attended PRINTS for a year and we did not think Montessori reflect her personality. Please note, we were at PRINTS 3 years ago so not sure if it has changed but at the time we went, the Montessori way at PRINTS was too stringent and the children had to follow the school's Montessori guidelines of learning. My daughter was taught to 'follow' rather than allow to express herself as an individual. If she did do something differently she was corrected to follow their routine until she did it their way. My daughter is pretty independent and very expressive so Montessori was pretty stifling for her. We switched to Shu Ren because we felt the IB program works better with our daughter's personality. IB focuses more on experiencial learning so instead of being stuck in a classroom all day long and learning by following a routine, they actually get to 'experience' what they learn in the classroom - Example, subject would be about Lifecycles, this is taught in class first -through books/pictures, discussions with class and teacher, visualization - teacher brought in eggs so kids can experience the process of life cycle by watching how the eggs eventually hatching into chicks, and then write about it allowing them to express themselves, how they feel and what they learned. Then they get to experience what they learned in class by going on field trips that pertains to the topic -a few of them are overnight camping trips. My daughter comes home excited about what she learns in school every day and you can tell she is really learning cause she would talk or apply what she learn at school wherever she goes on vacation with the family, trip to the market, at a restaurant, etc. And the teachers are very dedicated and passionate about what and how the kids are learning...the number of field trips that the class have for the year are not easy to plan and her teachers attend every single one even the overnight trips despite having young kids themselves. For the Mandarin immersion part, the classes are mainly taught in mandarin. It was a bit of a challenge for my youngest daughter in kindergarten. She comes home telling me she doesn't understand what the teacher is saying. However, the teachers and the administration were very opened to talking to us and in working out a plan that works for my youngest - giving her extra help at school, being flexible and switching to English when only needed and giving recommendations on what we can do at home to help her with her Chinese. We are non- mandarin speaking family but with the help of the school my kids' mandarin has progressed every year. Even my stubborn kindergartener knows how to speak, write and sing (cute) in Chinese now and my 2nd grader knows how to write Chinese characters in correct stroke order. As for math, I actually think the math is pretty advanced for their level. They get paper and online math homework every week. The IB program at Shu Ren teaches my kids to be independent learners so it works for my kids' personality. We are very happy with Shu Ren. Good luck with your decision. shurenparent

We are very pleased with the education our youngest son receives at Yu Ming. Here's are 5 reasons why:

1. Our son is learning to be bi-lingual and bi-literate in Mandarin! We by-pass our Albany Public Schools for this opportunity.

2. The quality of education is stellar. I am a public high school language teacher and I have been very impressed with the pedagogy of my son's Kindergarten teacher. She is creative, skillful at classroom management, and wonderful at differentiating learning. She is constantly building on prior knowledge making her classroom an excellent learning atmosphere for both Mandarin and Non-Mandarin speakers. Our son's English reading and writing skills are on par with other Kindergarteners in all-day English programs. It's amazing what the English teacher does in an hour per day. Both teachers use a variety of audio, visual, musical, and kinesthetic methods that are helpful for all learners. My son gets a homework packet and a DVD of a Chinese movie cartoon each week. Some of his homework is interactive. We have to read to our son each night and we have a weekly family activity (such as measuring things around the house, collecting and counting pennies, etc.)

3. This is a public school. Our son briefly attended a private Montessori Mandarin-immersion school for pre-school. His experience was terrible. Some of the students were downright mean to him, treating him as an outsider. I felt that they were culturally incompetent, prioritizing European and Asian culture, and unabashedly promoting this on their website. Unfortunately, you cannot access their views on ''multi-cultural education'' unless you have already enrolled your child. He was the only Black boy there and as we built a network of other African-American friends who had their children in private Mandarin-immersion schools, we found that they too, shared the complaint of cultural incompetence. Public schools are not allowed to have such insulated ignorance. Yu Ming teachers have been certified in the United States, which makes a tremendous difference in how they perceive their diverse student population. Our son has teachers who genuinely care about him and they have studied race, class, and gender issues in a U.S. context.

4. Parents are welcomed and embraced as resources. If I have a concern, I feel that I can talk to the principal and the teachers to help brainstorm solutions. I feel that my culture has been honored as I was asked to make presentations to classes for Kwanzaa and Black History Month. We have an amazing group of parents who are a strong presence at the school. At the Montessori school previously mentioned, I felt like my son was participating in a controlled experiment. They did not want parents to be there unannounced. We had to peer through blinds in order to watch the children from a window...very strange. At Yu Ming, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities to be involved with the school, whether you speak Mandarin or not. The parents have pulled off a highly successful fundraising gala, made submissions to the media, organized film-screenings, and put in countless hours to the school.

5. The location is almost perfect. Parking is terrible but on the flipside, Yu Ming is in the heart of Oakland's Chinatown. When I bring my son to school he recognizes characters on signs all the time. It is very exciting for me as a parent who does not speak Mandarin to witness him seeing the relevance of his language-learning. If you asked my son what he likes about his school, he would tell you one of the things he loves is the field trips. Because the school is so close to the museums, authentic Chinese restaurants, the library, the BART, etc. the students benefit from very rich cultural experiences literally in their backyard. DWF


Mandarin afterschool programs in the East Bay

May 2011


We're looking for a Mandarin afterschool program in the East Bay for our 4 year old. I've looked at Keystone Chinese School and New Sprouts and ShuRen, but the first two are weekends only and the last one was not a good fit. She's in preschool until 3, so we are looking for something fun that she can do in the afternoon. Does anyone have other suggestions? Thanks! East Bay mom

My daughter attends Ya Ya Chinese Childcare in Albany and we LOVE LOVE LOVE this program. Teacher He is so good with the kids and in addition to Mandarin language, she teaches them calligraphy, math with abacus, Kung Fu/Tai Chi, she does arts and crafts, cooking, gardening. It is such a warm and loving atmosphere, like a home away from home. She just created a new website, definitely check it out: VERY highly recommend! Happy Parent

I would recommend the after-school Mandarin program at Global Montessori International School ( Classes meet from 3:30pm to 4:45pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday each week. I'm continually impressed by the Chinese-language artwork and written worksheets that my 3-year-old brings home from these classes. - GMIS parent


Mandarin Immersion Elementary Schools?

Feb 2011


I've been searching for Mandarin immersion programs in the East Bay for grade schoolers. I found a few. I'm interested in hearing from parents who have their children in a Mandarin immersion school, not just afterschool or Saturday programs. How did you decide on your school? What do you like about your school? Thanks. Anon

There is currently really only one true Mandarin immersion elementary school in the East Bay: Shu Ren International School . Of the elementary schools with Mandarin offered, it's the only one that uses Mandarin as the main language for teaching most subjects. Last week's newsletter posted several reviews of the school so I don't want to repeat, but the main things we like about it are: small class size and the chance for individualized teaching; full Mandarin immersion taught by talented native speakers; a very strong English program so I never worry my son is behind kids in ''regular'' schools; and the IB curriculum framework. It's a wonderful school and I highly recommend it. mom of shu ren elementary student

You might also consider a new Mandarin Immersion charter school which will be opening Fall 2011, Yu Ming Charter School . I can't speak to facilities, principal, or teachers since the school has not opened yet, but what I like best about the school is the extremely committed and motivated community of parents who are volunteering to launch the school. I also like the fact that the school will be a public charter school and therefore tuition free. More information about the school here: J C

I applied to Yu Ming Charter School , a public dual English and Mandarin immersion school, for our son, who will enter K in the fall. I really like the longer school day, and longer school year that Yu Ming is planning on having. I think it's especially important for kids learning a language other than English. Also, there's no other public Mandarin immersion school near Berkeley. I also like that Yu Ming will teach the kids traditional Chinese characters to start, then introduce simplified Chinese characters later, so the kids will learn both. I highly recommend Yu Ming to any parent looking for a Mandarin immersion school! An enthusiastic Yu Ming parent

We're looking at the new Yu Ming Charter School in the East Bay for our son who is currently in kindergarten. What we like about it is the two-way dual immersion program which targets the class being 50% Mandarin-speaking and 50% non-Mandarin speaking. From the research that we've seen, this seems to be the best educational environment for kids to learn another language through immersion. Plus, we think it helps from a cultural perspective too.

Additionally, the thing that is drawing us to Yu Ming Charter School is that it is a public charter school, so there is no tuition. We think that this will help bring in a more diverse group of students and families compared to the private options out there. I admit that it'll be tough being a pioneer with a brand new school, but it seems like a great opportunity to take advantage of something special. Berkeley parent hoping to get into Yu Ming

My daughter attended a short pre-school program at ShuRen School in Berkeley, a Mandarin Immersion program. I wasn't entirely thrilled with the location or the way in which the school was run, but my daughter seemed to be having a good time for the majority of her time there, and she did learn a lot of Chinese.

I'm particularly excited about a brand new public (= free) charter Mandarin immersion school, Yu Ming, that is going to open for K and 1st grade in August 2011 and that is planned to be a K-8 school. ( Yu Ming is presently accepting applications with a deadline of Feb 10. Applications are welcome from all interested families, including students with and without Mandarin Chinese language skills. The school is actively recruiting in non-Asian, non-Caucasian communities. Yu Ming aims for bilingual and cultural fluency in both Chinese and English, and also intends to make their school a year-round academic learning environment, with longer days and a longer school year. Year-round learning has been noted as advantageous for a number of reasons (see, I've heard that the school location is going to be somewhere in or near Oakland Chinatown or on Alameda Island, but a location has not yet been made public. Good luck! a Berkeley parent

Our daughter is not yet elementary school age, but we've set our sights on applying to Yu Ming Charter School ( Although they've just started enrolling the inaugural K and 1st grade classes for Fall 2011, we'll be applying for several reasons: 1) it's a charter school, which is almost like getting private school education but w/o the price, 2) it's a two-way dual immersion model, which means that my daughter will be interacting with other native Mandarin-speaking children, which hopefully means that she'll be speaking Mandarin during recess, and not just in the classroom, 3) she'll be interacting with children from all socioeconomic and ethnic background, and not just w/ children who can afford private education, and finally, 4) Yu Ming is founded by an extraordinary group of dedicated parents who want for their own children what I want for mine; from getting the charter approval to mobilizing volunteers, all efforts to-date had been nothing but perfection. With Yu Ming, we're confident that we are in good hands to provide the best Mandarin and academic education for our daughter. - BT

My son attends the Elementary program at Global Montessori International School in Berkeley. He enjoyed the warm environment, opened up his shy personality, and made good friends. We like the supportive parent community and receptive school teachers and administrators. I find my son becoming more confident, responsible, thoughtful and inquisitive, since joining the elementary group. The English part of the Montessori program led by the head teacher Ms Nugapitiya is great. In a little over 5 months he went from not able to read by himself to a beginner reader of chapter books, and teaching me stuff he learned from school, e.g. leaning tower of Pisa. I doubt the Chinese part was taught strictly using the traditional Montessori material, as I have seen a 5th grader used the recording feature on IPhone to practice tone pronunciations for a tongue twister. I really like the innovative media introduced by the Chinese teacher Ms Ma, which made it more relevant to the kids and more engaging. The children are naturally more proficient in English and often speak that among the peers so the teachers had introduced show and tell in Chinese, word games... I find it a good mix between Montessori philosophy of C,follow the childC. and willingness to engage kids using effective methods. To me the learning skills and the excitements toward the language and cultures achieved have been invaluable. happy mom

hi, We have our son at Global Montessori International School and it's awesome! Although it used to be Japanese, Chinese, and English, it is now officially a Mandarin and English immersion school. However, there are some children in the elementary program who were in the Japanese immersion track so to be sensitive to those families, GMIS retains the resources for their Japanese-language education. That is a big part of what makes GMIS so special. it really is a place that values the needs of the children and parents and truly listens.

Another reason GMIS is so special is the culture. It is a warm, loving, kind place for the kids that also focuses on their education and making sure they learn. The kids love going to school and you can see what they are learning. And, they all do speak Chinese during the day, to the other kids as well, even those who don't have Mandarin spoken to them at home (like my son).

Additionally, this school is going places and will make a name for itself. Vivi has a tremendous amount of energy and she always has her eye to how to make the program stronger and reaching out to the community to bring resources and relationships to the school. Not only did they improve the art and music education this year (MOCHA comes to the school) she is reaching out to other schools in the area to create relationships for those graduating.

And lastly, but not least, the parent community is strong. there is a lot of parental involvement, which is great for the kids as well as the school.

GMIS was a wonderful decision for us as a family and we couldn't be happier. I hope you find your way to GMIS as well. A Happy Parent

I am one of the founding family members of Yu Ming Charter School , California's first Mandarin immersion public charter school, and wanted to offer information about our school.

Yu Ming will be a K-8 school and open in August 2011 with two Kindergarten and two 1st grade classes. We are now accepting applications and the deadline for submitting is February 10th.

The school will be located in Alameda County and is open to all California residents. Yu Ming helps to fill a huge unmet need and interest for public Chinese language instruction in the East Bay. The school aims to provide a rigorous, comprehensive education for students of all backgrounds and teach students from kindergarten to 8th grade to be fully bilingual in Mandarin Chinese and English. Because it is a public charter school, there are no tuition fees. The Alameda County Board of Education unanimously approved Yu Ming's charter in November 2010, a show of unprecedented support for our school concept. We are excited to be a part of the growing community of schools and parents interested in Mandarin immersion.

Please visit our website at for more information or to download an enrollment application. Chrissy Schwinn, Yu Ming Founding Family Member

We're looking at Yu Ming Charter School b/c we wanted the mix of English and Mandarin. Yu Ming is aiming for 50/50, which means that kids can learn as much from each other as the teachers. I'd love to be hear the recess conversations of bilingual 6 year olds!

The other thing is that the school is going to be in downtown oakland nr. chinatown. It will give us options for public or private transportation to get our daughter to school. Everett


Chinese Immersion for Chinese/African American child

Oct 2010


Hi I have a daughter who is 1yr old and is half Chinese and half African American. Does anyone have any recommendations for preschools in SF that has Chinese immersion? -Kathleen

My son is Chinese and Black as well. If you don't mind coming to the East Bay, we found a GREAT Chinese Immersion Program. The school we found for our son is called AIMS American International Montessori School . We love this school!!!!! The teachers and director are up to date on curriculum and great with the children. We have been made to feel very comfortable at this school. You should really check AIMS out. It is in Berkeley.

If you are in the East Bay, there is a fantastic Chinese immersion preschool right here in Berkeley, Shu Ren International School . The Pre-K is taught in 100% Mandarin, and the student body is very diverse. Their website is: They will host an open house in mid-November. shu ren parent


American Int'l Montessori and Global Montessori

Dec 2009


Does anyone have experience with the Chinese immersion programs at either American International Montessori or Global Montessori International School, both in Berkeley? I am interested in the quality of the teachers and instruction, whether the classroom environments are nurturing, and whether the children feel academic pressure, plus any other impressions. I am especially interested in these issues as they relate to the infant (up to age 3) and young children's (up to age 6) programs. Any information would be much appreciated. Thank you.

My child has attended both GMIS and AIM in their 3-6 year classrooms, and I actually like both schools, for different reasons. GMIS director Vivi Teng is extremely warm-hearted and dedicated to the students, and the parent community at that school is great. AIM director Ernie Mahr is extremely knowledgeable about child development and Montessori learning and has a host of highly experienced teachers and hard-working staff. I cannot speak for the GMIS classroom and instructors now, as I have no current experience, but the Chinese classroom at AIM is well-organized and the students focused on their learning - they have circle time 3x's a day, and interaction/activities with both the japanese and elementary students regularly. I don't feel there is any pressure from teachers to perform, but a gentle, consistent encouragement to develop good learning habits and a strong belief in the Montessori curriculum. AIM also offers great afternoon enrichment activities for the kids, including choir, soccer, art, drums, and kung fu, which for me, rounds out my child's education nicely. I would highly encourage you to visit and spend time at both schools to get to know them better.

Our 4.5 yo daughter started at AIM 's Chinese Children's House this past September, after 4 years at a really wonderful family-run daycare (Cynthia's Creative Care) - so she started with almost zero Mandarin. We've gotten all of what we'd hoped for and much more from our experience at AIM.

-teachers are extremely experienced, very kind and patient. Just as importantly, the admin folks are fabulously organized, communicative and responsive.

-both my husband and I really enjoyed our opportunity to sit in and observe our daughter's classroom in action. Activities are very inviting and stimulating - allowing interactive work and solo learning. The school also sponsors parent education nights that have given us some great food for thought. In particular, the director Mahr sensei is very accessible, with great insight into issues about parenting and life lessons to bring back into the home.

-the biggest test of course is how our daughter has responded to AIM. Understandably, it was rough for her to go from a mostly English-speaking loosely structured setting to a Chinese immersion school setting. We did get about 2-3 weeks of major tears and drama at drop off, but even in that rocky period she was demonstrated huge advances in language acquisition and other development. We've seen her develop an amazing ability to focus on a given task, work independently to solve problems, a lovely inclination to help clean around the house, a big jump in counting and math skill/ interest, and lively language development: spoken, written, and sung (I love all the singing), Chinese, English and some Japanese. Even a renewed interest in other languages she's exposed to (Tagalog and Spanish). She's brought home and implemented with us circle time and the peace table.

In sum, AIM was the right choice for us, blending language immersion, Montessori theories, experienced teachers and a warm communicative/responsive environment. Hope this is helpful. Linda

We have two children currently enrolled at American International Montessori - a 3 year old and a 7 year old, both in the Mandarin programs. We also previously had both children enrolled at both Pacific Rim and Global Montessori in years past.

We have had generally positive experiences at all three schools, however we are extremely happy to be at American International (AIM). To address the specific questions:

--The environment at the school is very nurturing. The teacher in our 3 year old child;s Mandarin classroom has decades of experience and actually worked with our older child at Pacific Rim. She runs a very organized classroom and at first glance might not seem nurturing. That was honestly my first reaction years ago upon meeting her at Pacific Rim. However she has been without a doubt the favorite teacher of both of our children. They simply love her. How she manages that connection with the kids while keeping such order and focus on the lessons is pretty amazing.

--The Mandarin teacher for the infant community - which is where a 2 year old would be - also came from Pacific Rim. She also teaches the Mandarin lesson to the elementary children in the afternoon, including our seven year old. All the same comments apply here - she runs a very tight ship while creating very strong bonds with the children.

Equally important, both are excellent Mandarin instructors. I do not speak Mandarin, but my wife does. But even to my ears, I can tell that both children are getting more focused instruction in Chinese, simply by the greater comfort and comprehension I see when they speak to or listen to other Chinese speakers.

The decision of these two teachers to come to AIM was a key factor in our enrolling our kids there.

-- Re: Academic pressure. There is definitely a focus on learning and adhering to Montessori lesson plans at AIM, but it is far from what I would describe as academic pressure. Rather, as parents we are presented during parent/teacher meetings with a progress report of how our children are doing in multiple categories. If a child is doing very well in some areas yet not as advanced in others, that is noted and the focus of their days may be shifted - but there is no pressure to keep up with the class. It seems very child-oriented, i.e. each child learning at their own pace. That said, I'm continually amazed at how much the kids can do at such an early age - cutting up and distributing snacks, drawing/labeling maps of the world, setting the lunch table and cleaning up afterwards. And our older child is reading and writing at a fantastic level.

The final comment would be that we are simply big fans of the staff as a whole. The school's director is someone whose approach to child development, language instruction and community building is one that we have grown to trust a great deal. So we're quite happy. Christopher

This is the second year our child attends Global Montessori International School (GMIS), and we are extremely happy with how the school has become especially over the past 6 months. After the school made the change from trilingual (Chinese, Japanese, and English) to the current bilingual (Chinese and English) environment for the two lower classes (Young Children's House for less than 3, and Children's House for 3 to 6 yr. old), the level of Chinese learning among the students have improved dramatically. Since our child was fluent in Chinese to begin with, we were somewhat unsure about whether the Chinese curriculum was going to be challenging enough, but we are definitely not disappointed by the outcome (if not expectation exceeded) so far. The new curriculum director (who's terrific) for the CH has integrated arts, music and other subjects into the language program, and we are still constantly amazed by how much math the kids there are learning by age 5...The staff has created a caring/nurturing environment, and the parents are a group of great individuals. The school is by no means perfect, but given it's only the second year in operation, we think it's on a solid footing already. We have considered all the alternative Chinese immersion schools in the area, and we are very happy with our decision. Happy GMIS Parents

As parent of 4.5 year-old twins who are thriving at Global Montessori (or GMIS), I can not say enough about the school. GMIS has taken the best fundamental Montessori philosophies and spiced it up with a lot of warmth and creativity to makes it more nurturing and suitable for Chinese bi-lingual education. Our family started at PRINTS when our kids where just 2 years old. There were no other options for Chinese bi-lingual back then. In fall of 2008, we followed Mahr Sen-sai when he moved to GMIS as it opened; but we stayed at GMIS when he left to open American Int'l Montessori (or AIM). I have the greatest of respect for Mahr Sen-sai's approach to teaching. However, we stayed for 2 key reasons. First, GMIS became 100% focused on Chinese bi-lingual with effectively 70% immersion in children's house instead of Japanese & Chinese. Second, we felt that under Director Vivi Teng, the school would be a more nurturing & creative Montessori. St. Mary's College chose to continue it's support of the school as well and uses it as a training center for Montessori accreditation. While GMIS is still evolving, our family is very pleased with it's process and future direction. Our kids often cried when we took them to PRINTS. Now they miss school when we are away. More importantly, I see their dramatic progress in Chinese (verbal and written) along with their passion for music, math and English. I believe the school will only get better over time. Good luck with your decision. Feel free to email me if you have additional questions. jinee

I have children at Global Montessori International School (GMIS) since it opened a year ago. The strength of the school has been the Director Vivi Teng. She is from a family of educators in Taiwan and has a clear passion for teaching. She is especially dedicated to bi-lingual education and finding the best materials to teach Mandarin. She and the teachers set the tone of warmth, care, and fun for the children. The teachers are gentle and patient with the children. The teachers have art and music backgrounds, which are incorporated in creative ways into the English and Mandarin curriculum. My children have really enjoyed this aspect of learning. There is no Mandarin spoken in our house, but my kids are picking up Mandarin at a rapid pace due to the effectiveness of the Mandarin immersion portion of the curriculum. The Montessori piece is evident when I see the children 3-6 (and Elementary Children) all working together, independently (without prompting), engaged in preparing the food, setting up the class for Thanksgiving Feast, and cleaning up. It is quite amazing that at such a young age they can be empowered to make meaningful contributions to those around them. I have been impressed with the work of all the teachers at GMIS. anon

I have two active and sensitive boys (3 and 5) at Global Montessori International School (GMIS) . My 5 year old started at PRINTS when he was 3 and we moved to GMIS for two main reasons: my faith in Ernie Mahr's expertise in montessori education and Vivi Teng's (GMIS director) warmth and passion for education. What I felt was lacking at PRINTS (warmth and flexibility), I found at GMIS. Even though I think Ernie is a very talented educator, I decided to stay at GMIS because Mandarin was more important to me than a strict montessori curriculum. Having the school (Vivi) and curriculum (Lena Lee) directors who are not only fluent but native Mandarin speakers, in my opinion, is important as well. They have worked hard to put together a very strong curriculum. During this past summer, while my oldest son did various summer camps, my youngest son (2 turning 3 at the time) stayed at GMIS and I noticed a dramatic progress in his verbal Chinese. In 2.5 months, he went from speaking some Mandarin words to carrying a short conversation in Mandarin. I think the fact that GMIS went from trilingual (Japanese, Mandarin and English) to bilingual (Mandarin and English) really helped my kids focus and acquire more Mandarin. The new integration of art, music and P.E. curriculum really creates a more multi-disciplinary approach yielding an in-depth and rich learning experience for the students. Lena is also Orff and Music Together certified. There aren't any academic pressure that I am aware of, the focus is more on supporting the progress and needs of each child. The intimate setting at GMIS also foster deeper relationships and there is very strong sense of community; with very dedicated and friendly families. I think it is an extremely hard process finding the right fit for your child and your educational goals for them. Good luck in your search and please feel free to write me if you have any questions. Chi

We have a 4.5 year old boy and a 3.0 year old girl at GMIS . We, and most importantly, our two kids LOVE the school. They love the teachers and really seem to enjoy everything they do at school. Our son started at PRINTS and we moved him to GMIS after six months. We found the GMIS environment to be warmer and the kids seem happier. Our daughter started fairly young (in our mind) when she just turned two. Despite never been to any third-party day care, she warmed up to GMIS and its teachers immediately (she didn't cry once). That speaks to the kind of nurturing environment that we found so special about GMIS and its entire staff. Executive Director Vivi Deng takes an active and genuine interest in the well- being of each child in the program and has been very open to parents' suggestions. We love the GMIS location -- safe and convenient. GMIS also has a very strong parent community. We have enjoyed getting to know the GMIS parents, working together to support the school's program and becoming great friends.

We have been thrilled by our kids' progress in Chinese since this summer when the school changed from a trilingual to bilingual program. All in all, we are very happy with GMIS and will keep our kids there for a while. GMIS parent


Mandarin Bilingual from K on - which one?

Oct 2009


I've found no less than 4 bilingual Chinese schools in Berkeley/Emeryville area. I have visited PRINTS already, but wanted some comments about the other three: Global Montessori, American International Montessori and Shu Ren. Have seen lots of pre-school posts. We would be starting at the K level and we're interested in impressions of a school that seems to be solid/well enrolled enough to stick with for years. Our daughter has very little experience with Mandarin. Incoming K-parent

Our son is in Kindergarten at Shu Ren and we love it. It's a warm, nurturing environment with talented and enthusiastic teachers and staff. Our son spoke Chinese before going but most of the children had had little or no exposure before this year, and they are all reading, writing and speaking Chinese already, after just two months. The teacher has done a great job of creating a community feeling among the students, and our son is excited to go to school every day. The workload is intensive but must be in order for them to learn such a difficult language, and my son enjoys the work, loves doing his homework, and they are learning a lot. They also spend a lot of time on art projects, music, and free play outdoors. Because it is 100% Mandarin in Kindergarten, except for an hour a day of English, the children really benefit from an immersion environment. The staff and administrators are very dedicated and smart, enrollment is very stable now, and I'm trusting that the school is here to stay. The school is hosting open houses and tours this month, check out their website for more details: Shu Ren mom

I usually don't take time out to write letters of recommendation, but I feel strongly enough about a recent poster's inquiry into a good Mandarin bilingual school to reply: In my opinion, Shu Ren International School in Berkeley is the only place to go!!!

I have a long-standing interest in foreign languages, linguistics and bilingual education. When considering the right school for our only child, my husband and I looked at a broad swath of highly recommended schools in the Bay Area. We visited both Spanish and Mandarin language immersion schools; and we even spent a couple of preschool years at a Spanish-English bilingual language school. A number of the other schools we looked at were quite good, but we can state unequivocally that Shu Ren is the absolute best we've seen. I was a little hesitant before starting the year: although I speak three languages fluently, neither my husband nor I have any knowledge of Mandarin (with two busy careers and no nanny, we weren't anticipating a lot of extra time to devote to learning the language). But 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.

Please google it to make sure but in case it's handy, I think their number is 510-981-0291. Best wishes, Happy Parent of a 5-yr Old

All the schools you are considering, except Shu Ren, follow a Montessori curriculum, which is very different from a traditional style of teaching, and something you should be aware of, especially for K-5. My child is attending preschool at American International Montessori , so though I cannot speak to the K-5 question specifically, I can say that I am very pleased with both the level of professionalism and organization of the administration and teaching staff, and the level of education my child is receiving there. The director is a teacher at heart, a former curriculum director at both PRINTS and GMIS, and is very committed to the Montessori philosophy of learning. Though it is a relatively new school, the Chinese classroom directors have many years of teaching experience in chinese language AND Montessori (something I realize is rare in these parts), and have worked with the main director for many years previous. From day one, our experience has been very smooth, and I believe AIM offers the best combination of a team of experienced, dedicated teachers and the energy and potential of a new school. Anon.

Dear Incoming K-parent,

I'm a parent of two at American International Montessori (AIM) and now also help run admissions at the school. When I was searching for Mandarin programs 5 years ago, there was just one in the East Bay. Now parents have a range of choices so it's great to go and visit the different programs and get a feel for each.

What sets our program apart is our highly experienced team of teachers who have all worked intimately with our Director, Ernie Mahr-- some for near a decade or more. Ernie has 16 years of experience running trilingual Montessori programs in the East Bay, and now at his own school, he has brought together his dream team of teachers who share his vision-- with the same academic focus you would expect in a great Montessori program, but with a more rigorous language acquision model in two separate programs, Mandarin and Japanese. There is no language experience required if you are starting in the kindergarten year.

As an incoming kindergartener, your daughter would join our Mandarin program for 3-6 year olds which is a total immersion environment from 9am to 1pm, then has an English component in the afternoon. She would eventually graduate to our Elementary program which is taught in English in the morning, then intensive Mandarin in the afternoons.

We would welcome an opportunity to speak with you about our program for your daughter. We enroll year-round and tours are available several times a week. We have a terrific program and staff, and the support of many families who are committed long- term to AIM. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 510 868 1815 or via email at info [at] You can find more information on our website at Sincerely, H.L.

We have direct experience with three of these schools: PRINTS, Global and AIM. My daughter started at PRINTS at 2 years old and went there for 3 years. She then spent about a year at Global and is now at AIM . In our experience these were all good schools. What we felt made them good was the leadership of the director Ernie Mahr (and of course his staff). Ernie (worked at PRINTS and Global, and has now founded his own school: AIM) Ernie exudes an energy of caring, compassion, and twinkling humor. He attracts an amazing staff who does a great job with the montessori teachings as well as providing the nurturing and caring community that is so important to us. My daughter, who is now 8, in addition to knowing Mandarin also has a strong mastery of math that seems intuitive (we suspect this is due to the montessori teaching since neither my husband or I were ever particularly good at math). My 2 year old has just started going to AIM as well and is really started to thrive -he's picking up the languages and starting to say phrases in Mandarin. I think, given the choice between the three schools, your best bet is AIM. Feel free to contact me if you have more specific questions melissa

Shuren is the only mandarin-immersion school in the Bay Area that strives to follow the International Baccalaureate Program, an internationally recognized academic program that will help the children become self-inquirers and develop a passion for life-long learning. To that end, Shuren has hired teachers that share this vision and have taught their initial classes of pre-K through 2nd grade kids how to nurture this desire to learn. My son has been going to Shuren since this January as a pre-K student and has truly loved going there. His mandarin improved dramatically within weeks of starting and we truly want to see Shuren succeed in its endeavors to become a K-8 school. Please go visit the school for yourself so you can see what the kindergarten teacher has taught the children. I believe they are still doing tours on Wednesday mornings, but please call the school to check. Their website is Their number is: (510) 981-0320. Good luck in your decision-making. Mom of a Shuren Child


Manadarin Bilingual School or immersion program in the East Bay?

Feb 2007

Is there a Manadarin Bilingual School or immersion program in the East Bay? I know there is the Chinese International School in San Francisco. Are there any other options to help teach a non-native child Mandarin in a formal setting? Thanks. cymrick

Hayward Unified School District is starting a new Dual Language Immersion program where the target language will be Mandarin. They already have Spanish Dual Language Immersion at a school site in that district for 6 years now. The Mandarin DLI program will be at their newest school just opened the 2006-07 year; nice hills location. Their Spanish DLI is at a school site which will have a new school building in Fall 2008. Free language learning for students, if out of area, need to apply through open enrollment. Should contact District Office at 510-784-2600 soon. DLI parent at HUSD Recommendations received: