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China’s Xinhua news agency on immersion in Los Angeles

December 15, 2011
California public kindergarten focuses on Chinese language instruction   2011-12-10 10:08:36
by George Bao, Xue Ying

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) — Robert Icart is an African American who has never been to China, but he decided to send his 5-year-old son to a public school which conducts 90 percent of its teaching in Chinese in its kindergarten classes.

“Here in the United States when I go shopping, I find most of the products are made in China, that shows me the importance of China and that has also encouraged me to send my son, Justyce, to the Eugene Field Elementary School,” Icart said.

Eugene Field Elementary School is the only public school at the Pasadena Unified School District in Los Angeles Country of California that offers Chinese-English bilingual immersion programs.

In its kindergarten, 90 percent of the teaching is in Chinese and 10 percent in English, and in the first grade, 80 percent in Chinese and 20 percent in English, while in the second grade 70 percent in Chinese and 30 percent in English.

Now in its third year, this program has 4 classes and 110 students. The second grade is currently its highest level. As students progress through grade levels, they will ultimately reach a 50-50 split of the two languages they use in class by fifth grade.

Icart, whose parents were from Haiti and wife from Mexico, runs a basketball training institute which helps talented student athletes to get into colleges and universities including those of the Ivy League. He is now trying to prepare his son for his life success in a globalized world with China as a more and more important player.

“After looking into the economy and where it headed for, I found that Mandarin is going to be the most important language, not English,” said Icart, who sent Justyce to a language learning center to learn Mardarin when he was four. The family originally enrolled Justyce in another school but changed their mind one week before it started after they learnt about the immersion program of Eugene Field Elementary.

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