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Not immersion, but Toronto gets the Mandarin bug

September 13, 2010

Peter Kuitenbrouwer, National Post · Monday, Sept. 13, 2010

Tucked behind Toronto’s big University Avenue hospitals, Orde Street Junior Public School bustles in a four-storey red-brick schoolhouse built in 1914, boasting tall wood frame windows with solid stone sills. A beatific coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth II hangs in the lobby, bookended by four flags — two each of Ontario and Canada–and a plaque: “In Honoured Memory of the Boys of Orde Street School Who Made the Supreme Sacrifice” in the Second World War.

But from across the school’s hallway glowers the future: a green papier mache dragon with a head the size of a fridge, a bared-fang grin and a spectacular ribboned tail, next to a wall of posters signed Rita, Nancy, Annie and Christina — and all written in Chinese characters.

All 300 students at this school must study Mandarin. Junior and senior kindergarten students get 15 minutes of Mandarin a day. In Grades 1 through 6 students get a half-hour of Mandarin per day. Seven Mandarin instructors arrive at the school at 10:30 a.m. to teach kindergarten, and stay through until 1:30 p.m., with two staying in the afternoon to teach more kindergarteners.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education, through the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), pays the Mandarin instructors’ wages. The school has lengthened its day by half an hour to accommodate Mandarin.

Sarah McAllister, who attended English and French public schools growing up in Toronto, says her six-year-old daughter, Dara, loves learning Chinese.

“Yesterday she had been practising her Mandarin numbers from one to six,” Ms. McAllister said. “She came home very excitedly because one of her classmates was born in China. She was helping her with her Mandarin.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2012 11:45 am

    As a follow up to this, it’s now 2012 and a group of parents in Toronto are currently campaigning for a publicly funded Mandarin-immersion style program. Please visit Toronto Parents for Mandarin at to learn more about our current discussions. We are happy to learn of anyone else’s experiences in bringing a program to fruition, wherever you are, and happily join the global community of parents looking for their children to become bilingual in a language of growing international significance.

  2. February 6, 2013 9:12 am

    The Dalton School, located at Yonge and St. Clair, is a new dual language Mandarin-English school for JK through elementary. The Program uses a 50-50 model of immersion; all academic subjects are taught in both languages. Please visit our website at: or visit our Facebook page at: for more information.
    You may also contact us at 416-432-3475 for further information.

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