View Full Version : Hayes Valley-USF Growing Diversity Fuels Chinese American International School

03-24-2011, 03:40 PM
This from WSJ.com (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704461304576216613309652724.html) by Yukari Iwatani Kane:
San Francisco's Chinese American International School has long had a reputation for strong academics, but it has grown more popular as a rising number of non-Chinese parents bank on Chinese-language skills for their children's future.

When Christine Chessen decided to send her oldest child to CAIS eight years ago, her blond-haired daughter stood out among the sea of mostly Asian or half-Asian children. Her stock-trader husband opposed the idea, and friends thought she was crazy.

She went ahead and enrolled her daughter, because she wanted to expose her to a completely different culture. The move made sense to Ms. Chessen when she learned that there are more native speakers of Chinese in the world than those whose mother tongue is English or Spanish.

These days, her daughter isn't so unusual at CAIS, a private school that instructs in both Mandarin and English from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

"With the rise of Asia, people are finally jumping on the bandwagon," said Ms. Chessen, a stay-at-home mom who now has all three of her children—a first-, fourth- and sixth-grader—enrolled in the school. Her children, she said, are growing up singing Chinese songs, playing Chinese instruments and learning Chinese calligraphy, which she said she now considers all "part of our culture."

A recent survey by the school found that CAIS's non-Asian population has grown 42% over the past decade and currently makes up 27% of its 472 students. The remainder are children with partial or full Asian backgrounds, though most come from non-Chinese-speaking families.

Even though the school has increased its overall student population by 35% since 2000, it continues to be difficult to get into. More than 100 families vied for the 25 to 30 pre-K spots available next year. In the lower grades, instruction is half in Chinese, half in English; in middle school, which starts with grade six, 35% is in Chinese. The day school, in Hayes Valley, costs about $22,000 a year.

CAIS's growth is part of a nationwide trend as China's rise in the global economy prompts parents to seek Chinese-language instruction for their children—including President Barack Obama, whose daughter Sasha is learning Mandarin.

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