Getting a Head Start: Early Mandarin Bilingual Programs in Vancouver
Posted on Oct 10, 2012 / Author: Vania Chan and Nancy Lee / Tags: Education, Culture and Communities, early mandarin bilingual program, education, EMBP, Mandarin, Mandarin education, Norquay elementary, Vancouver
Four questions with filmmakers Vania Chan and Nancy Lee.
What gave you the idea to make a video about a Mandarin bilingual program in Canada?
Asia has had a significant impact on Canada, especially through the migration patterns of many Canadian citizens with Asian backgrounds. Deep historical, social and economic ties with Asia have influenced and continue to influence Canada. Language can be an indicator of some of these influences since it is connected with culture. We found the growing importance of Mandarin in Greater Vancouver interesting because it shows that there is a growing need for multilingual citizens in a multicultural society. The demand for the Early Mandarin Bilingual Program (EMBP) reflects a shifting paradigm of the general population in Vancouver, as parents themselves lobbied for it. We started researching the program and found that there is not a lot of multimedia information on it, and we wanted to contribute to what is out there.
What did you learn about the reasons Norquay decided to offer this program to its students?
The Vancouver School Board created a task force that pored over all the tough questions in implementing the EMBP. They ultimately decided that the EMBP should be offered at Norquay Elementary. The school recently had some high upgrades, is close to public transit routes, and has sufficient space to accommodate such a program.
What do you think is the most convincing argument for more Mandarin bilingual programs in Canadian schools?
Starting a Mandarin bilingual program, or any language program, for young learners not only provides them with knowledge of a language, but also increases their cultural tolerance and encourages cross-cultural interactions.
Are there any obstacles to implementing more of these programs in British Columbia and Canada?
There are many obstacles in implementing more of these programs in Canada. There has been a very successful Mandarin Bilingual Program that has been running in Edmonton for more than 25 years, but the rest of Canada seems to be just catching up. Some of the obstacles in putting these programs in place may include the capacity of school boards and their schools (such as not having sufficient time, space or funding), the priorities of each community, and making key decisions about the program (e.g. the curriculum, who would be eligible). In the case of Vancouver, there was a large demand by parents to launch an EMBP, and the entire process took about three years.
This video was created in response to a NCA call out for short video proposals on the theme of “Why Asia matters to Canada.” Click to view the other videos, “Three Canadians: Business in Taiwan” and “Qui Jin: Tracing Bridges Between Nanjing and Vancouver.”
The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.