Mandarin infusion school starting in the Lowcountry

Mandarin infusion school starting in the Lowcountry
March 26 20:01 2018 Print This Article

East Light Academy of Charleston will open this fall. It is a Mandarin Chinese Immersion K – 2nd grade charter school that is located at 2325 Charleston Regional Parkway, off of Clements Ferry Road on the Cainhoy Peninsula. The school is renting space in a former medical industrial complex. The first year the school will have about 380 students and will add a grade each year until the 8th grade. Charter schools are free public schools, but there will be classes for four-year-olds that charge a fee. Parents can apply online. Students are taken in the order they apply. If more students apply than seats available, a lottery will be held.

Dr. Xian Wu, a University of South Carolina Mathematics Professor, founded East Point Academy in Columbia in 2011, also a Mandarin Chinese Immersion Charter School. The success of this school has led to a desire to expand. The South Carolina Charter School District approved East Light Academy of Charleston and East Link Academy of Greenville to open in August. East Voyager Academy of Charlotte is also opening in the 2018-2019 school year. As a statewide charter school, all South Carolina residents are eligible to attend.

There are 247 Mandarin Chinese Immersion programs in the United States. Language immersion, in which students are taught in a foreign language for part of the day, is believed to improve focus and cognitive development. The East Point Academy website states that neuro-scientists believe that the study of Mandarin uses both temporal lobes of the brain, versus just the left lobe for English speakers, and that learning to write Chinese characters helps to develop spatial memory and math skills. Students who are bilingual typically have higher academic achievement, with standardized test scores 10 – 20% higher than their peers.

In the grades 4K – 1st grade, 75% of instruction will be in Mandarin and 25% in English. After 1st grade, instruction will be 50% in Mandarin and 50% in English. They will be fluent in Mandarin after 5 years, and as the students get older, more and more of instruction will be in English.

The racial make-up of the school is expected to be similar to that of the Charleston County School District (CCSD) which is 40.1% Black, 3.2 % Multi – Other, 1.5% Asian, 8.6% Hispanic, and 46.6% White. East Point Academy in the Midlands has a racial make-up that is 35.3% Black, 10.1% Multi – Other, 6.11% Asian, 1.5% Hispanic, and 47% White.

Robert Bohnstengel is the interim principal for East Light Academy. He is an experienced administrator, who was principal at James Island Charter High School and also served as a principal in Beaufort and Jasper County schools. The students will attend school from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm. From 3:30 to 6:00 pm, students will participate in listening to and comprehension of Mandarin. These students have a unique opportunity to be fluent in a language spoken by 1/5 of the world’s population or 1.2 billion people. Bohnstengel said, “We live in a global economy, and China has the second largest economy in the world. Our students will have a competitive advantage by being fluent in Mandarin.”