SFUSD to explore teaching Mandarin in elementary schools

San Francisco’s public school leaders will explore teaching Mandarin as part of a student’s daily curriculum in elementary schools for the first time, in an effort to encourage students to learn more than one language.

The San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously supported a proposal to study the feasibility of introducing Mandarin into the general education of elementary schools, likely at two schools initially. If successful, district leaders will look to implement Spanish instruction in the same way.

The program will allow all students in elementary schools to learn Mandarin for 30 minutes or an hour each day, differing from other immersion classes in which all subjects are taught in another language and English is gradually added as students advance to higher grades.

District leaders are looking to offer Mandarin to younger students as early as the 2018-19 school year at Cobb Elementary and George Peabody Elementary. Both schools feed into Roosevelt Middle School, which teaches Mandarin language to students.

“We would like for more of our children to learn a world language in the younger years,” said Commissioner Sandra Fewer, who co-authored the resolution with Commissioner Rachel Norton. “If our goal is for all of our students to be bilingual, we thought, ‘Let’s see if it’s feasible.’”

Fewer added that teachers and others in the school communities will be involved in the planning process over the next several years.

The school district offers a similar general education language program in Japanese at two elementary schools, but this would increase the effort to include Mandarin and later Spanish.

“What we’re looking at is more of an expansion and more widespread,” Fewer said.