• Mandarin Immersion Program Exploration

    The Sunnyvale School District began the process of exploring the creation of a Mandarin Immersion Program in May 2019. This webpage was created to provide information about the program, the exploration process, and the next steps. 

    Program exploration was put on pause during the global pandemic in 2020 and 2021. The Board of Education held a study session on Oct. 20, 2022, regarding the Mandarin Immersion Program. The board received information related to beginning, maintaining, and ensuring the success of a potential Mandarin Immersion Program (MIP). The executive summary also provided information and considerations related to adding this Program of Choice (PoC) as well as the unique factors related to immersion programs. No action was taken.

    Mandarin Immersion Program Description and Structure

    In a two-way Mandarin Immersion Program, there is a balanced number of English-speaking students who are learning Mandarin, and Mandarin-speaking students who are learning English in the same class. The aim is to support both groups in building their skills in both languages.

    How it Works:

    • Students learn academics in periods of instruction during which only one language is used at a time
    • Both languages have equal significance in learning

    A language immersion program is defined as one that involves the use of two languages as the medium of instruction for academic content for no less than 50 percent of the school day.

    There are various program models to consider in the development of a Mandarin Immersion Program. For example, a Dual Language Immersion program that implements the fifty-fifty model, uses two teachers, one who instructs exclusively in the target language for half of the day and a second who teaches in English for the remainder of the day. 

    Other programs can start with 80 or 90% of instruction in Mandarin in kindergarten and will gradually increase the instruction in English until 50% percent of instruction is taught in both languages, usually by 3rd or 4th grade. These are known as either an 80/20 model or a 90/10 model. 

    Each model has its own set of advantages. It is important to note that all programs eventually are 50/50 before the end of elementary school, where half of the instruction is in English and the other half of instruction is in Mandarin. Regardless of the program model chosen, all students will be expected to demonstrate high proficiency in both Mandarin and English language in literacy as well as subject-matter achievement.

    It is important to note that when such a program is launched, it typically starts with kindergarten and gradually expands by a grade level each year. It would not replace a neighborhood school but would operate in tandem with the school. Whether students are enrolled in the Mandarin Language Immersion program or are attending their neighborhood school, all students will participate in broader school activities together. The goal is for the school to be one learning community in which all cultures and languages are valued and celebrated.