In an increasingly globalized world, an international, multicultural education plays a vital role in shaping leaders of the future by promoting a better understanding of, and appreciation for, other people, cultures, religions, languages, and geographies. Yew Cheng International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) offers the world-renowned IBDP and IGCSE curriculums, both of which are built upon the ideals of global-mindedness and respect for cultural and social diversity.
YCIS Beijing’s commitment to nurturing international-mindedness is further driven by their unique ‘East meets West’ philosophy. One of the main pillars supporting this philosophy is the school’s emphasis on bilingualism.
YCIS Beijing offers a distinctive bilingual programme in the Early Years and Primary School (ages 3 to 11), where English and Chinese are given equal value, and where, from their earliest years, children learn simultaneously in these two languages.
It is common knowledge that dual language programmes aid literacy development and bridge cultural gaps. However, a growing body of research also indicates that bilingualism helps build problem-solving skills and enhances other areas of cognition. It paves the way for collaborative learning, helps cultivate life-long learning skills, and leads to higher focus and an improved ability to adapt to change.
According to Ms. Segolene Ekoto, a primary co-teacher at YCIS Beijing, students recognize early on that both teachers are equally responsible for their learning. “…it’s really rewarding to see them [the students]develop pride in their own native language as well as showing great interest in learning another language”, she said. “During assemblies and cultural events, they get input from the co-principals and teachers in two different languages.”
YCIS Beijing is home to students and staff from over 40 different countries, making it a truly multicultural community. “Many of our students even speak a third language and they are encouraged to maintain their native language”, said Ms. Ekoto. Ms. Rachel Li, another Primary co-teacher and Secondary Chinese teacher at YCIS Beijing, commented that “being surrounded by so many cultures and languages at an early age helps students broaden their vision, improve their language skills, and gives them a great competitive advantage by the time they are ready to apply for college.”
The two co-teachers then went on to describe how the YCIS Beijing libraries cater to this multicultural community and play a key role in the immersive bilingual experience. In addition to its growing collection of books and learning resources, the Primary school library has a section dedicated to bilingual books. “Culturally diverse stories can teach children both the importance of accepting others and the beauty of difference”, said Ms. Li.
However, how does the school encourage reading for a generation that looks to Google for instant answers? Ms. Ekoto gave an example: “Students were recently introduced to graphic novels and were given the chance to create their own graphic novels. Through such projects, we introduce them different kinds of books that might be interesting to them.” “We also offer various incentives, for example, students are sometimes able to score points for their house upon completion of certain books,” Ms. Li explained.
To promote diversity in the library program, YCIS Beijing conducts a range of events such as their annual ‘Literacy Week’. The theme of the last event was ‘One World, Many Stories.’ English and Chinese Authors were invited to take part in writing workshops and special story-telling sessions. During the Literacy Week, students especially enjoy an activity called ‘DEAR’, where at any point in the day, teachers may instruct students to ‘Drop Everything And Read’ for a short while. “Occasionally, we have special 20-30 minute reading sessions where students find a comfortable spot to read – they bring a cushion and a blanket or even put on their pajamas. Sometimes they get to enjoy a quick snack of milk and cookies!” Ms. Ekoto explained, laughing.
When asked if books would make a good gift for children during the upcoming holiday season, Ms. Ekoto had an enthusiastic response: “Books make great gifts, but always try to make sure the book is about topics that are of interest to the child – especially if they are not a natural reader.” She went on to recommend an interactive series titled Santa Is Coming To _______, (for ages four to eight) by Steve Smallman. Ms. Li recommended the Better Chinese bilingual series that is based on stories about Chinese culture and helps improve Chinese language. In her opinion, bilingual books especially, would make good gifts, but even though they speak volumes and last lifetimes, “kids might expect something else along with books, so better be prepared!” she joked.
Cultural diversity and bilingualism is thus an integral part of the effectiveness and YCIS Beijing’s identity as an international school. Through a range of initiatives, YCIS ensures that each student is able to communicate effectively using two or more languages to be well prepared for the challenges of an ever-changing world.
This post is sponsored by YCIS Beijing.
Photos: Uni You