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any other expats with kids in local schools?

  1. #1
    ctrbabe1 is offline Registered User
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    any other expats with kids in local schools?

    Ok, some of you know that my 4 year old, Maya, is in preschool at a local Chinese school. It is all taught in Cantonese but they have an English teacher that comes once a week. We decided to put her in school in the off chance that we end up staying here permanently and she would need to go through the public/local school system because there's no way we could ever afford the international (English speaking) schools.

    So, the problem... The school year is almost over and she still can't speak Chinese. She knows a few things, but is nowhere near being fluent and she often refuses/resists when dh or other relatives are talking to her. She tells them she doesn't understand and that they need to speak English to her. (Before we put her in, I talked to many people at church who put their kids in school when they were living in different countries and all said their kids were pretty fluent in 3-4 months...) Lately, she's become really frustrated at school and is crying a lot (I think I mentioned this before... probably partly jealousy/insecurity from the new baby). She tells me that the other kids are yelling at her a lot (which her teacher says is not true) and dh and I believe that her perception of "yelling" is her being frustrated that she can't understand what other kids are saying to her. Again, she has told me that they just need to speak English.

    The dillemma: I think we have three options here. Either we put her in full day school next year (she currently goes 3 hours/5 days a week) so that she has more exposure to the language and will (hopefully) pick it up; keep her in half day as she is now; take her out completely and have me home school her.

    With the first option, I'm afraid that full day/5 days a week is a long time for a little kid. (She only just turned 4). But I feel like she really needs more time with the language. We can't afford a private tutor for her. With the second, I guess it's the most realistic, but I'm afraid it's not doing enough for her, language wise. And the third, I'd be worried about her not getting enough socialization/interaction with other kids and I doubt I'd be able to teach her as well or give her as much stimulation as her school does.

    Any advice on the matter? Anything I can do to help her?
    What do you think??
    All the best,
    Katie

  2. #2
    spockey is offline Registered User
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    Hi Katie
    I'm a NET in a local school. Perhaps you would like to consider placing her in an English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) public school? As far as I understand it, a lot of kids in those schools are from non-Chinese speaking backgrounds.
    I am uncertain of how General Studies is taught. But I am certain that Maths is taught in English. So, half the battle would be won i.e. English and Mathematics taught in English, so the other two core subjects are taught in either Putonghua or Cantonese.
    In my current school as CMI primary school, Cantonese as a medium of instruction is being phased out, Putonghua is now used to teach Mathematics.
    The other thing to consider is that I noticed that there is also a higher proportion of non-Chinese speaking background teachers in those schools.
    The teachers and NETs I have met from those schools have so far been really nice. So perhaps, this could be a viable alternative as there are also a good number of EMI secondary schools.
    The list of EMI schools can be found on EMB's website.
    So perhaps placing her in a local kinder which focuses on half and half type mediums of instructions would ease her anxiety.
    Good Luck with it all.

  3. #3
    loupou is offline Baby Guru
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    I had my kids in local kindergartens and it helped their Cantonese. Not as much as I hoped, because it wasn't "all day". If you want her to really pick it up, she will likely have to be in a kindie or child care centre from 8am to 3pm.

    I "considered" placing my kids in local EMI primary schools. Unfortunately we were not considered worthy of admission to the ones I hoped to get them into ;). The "good" EMI schools have lots and lots of competition.

    So, we put of eldest in a Cantonese medium "good" aided primary school (lucky to get her in). It was great for her Cantonese, but eventually too much for our family in terms of homework, etc. YMMV.

    One that was a possibility (DSS EMI school) was far away from our home & the environment and facilities were not as nice as I had hoped for my children's school experience.

    So, eventually, we switched to ESF.

    But, nothing ventured nothing gained. Maybe you will be able to get your daughter into a good local school (EMI or Cantonese) and she will have a happy experience. You won't know unless you try.

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    carang is offline Registered User
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    keep in mind that come primary school, it is illegal to home school kids. ridiculous, i know as it is something that i would consider myself, but law none-the-less.

    does anyone in your house speak cantonese?

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    spockey is offline Registered User
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    MayC this is for when your child is in P1... although the teachers at that level are very busy, they are also very understanding and accomodating. The teachers in my school are made aware of children from such families i.e. Non-Cantonese speaking families. So in such cases, extra effort is made to keep the parents aware e.g. important notes are written in the diary or during pick up time, parents would approach the home room (form) teacher to ask about important things. Everything is written down in a class diary that is kept in class on the teacher's table. So make sure you ask during pick up time.

    If the home room teacher is a non-English speaking teacher, request to speak to the English teacher. As far as I understand it, at local primary schools, parents have a lot of influence and "power" as schools are always concerned about their enrollment numbers. So use your sway. I see it happen all the time.

  6. #6
    loupou is offline Baby Guru
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    Quote Originally Posted by MayC View Post

    So far, it's okay but what's frustrating is getting all instructions in Chinese and not knowing what they are talking about. Hubby isn't always home. So she goes to school without the correct books and I send her to school on days that she's not supposed to go... and I miss out on things because I cannot read the school notices. I don't blame the school system for this because I'm in a Chinese country but I feel so helpless at times. What happens later on when I cannot help her with her homework?
    I have a Western friend who sends her kids to local schools (but she speaks Cantonese). Since she & her husband work full time, they send the kids to "Bo jaap" - a homework centre. I think they go there every day after school and do their homework.

    The communication issues were very hard for me as a mama, which is one of the reasons we pulled our eldest out of local school after she finished P2.

    You might also want to look at local DSS schools like PLK Camoes.
    http://210.0.207.198/

    It's EMI, but w/ strong Chinese. I had a friend who sent her kids there and was very happy. It costs 12 K per year. In Yaumatei.

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    mosmom is offline Registered User
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    MayC --> PM

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    Taphrina is offline Registered User
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    ctrbabe1

    To ctrbabe1
    I think your daughter is being picked on by the other local kids because she is different looking. If you are caucasian and she is surrounded by chinese she will be picked on.
    I arrived in HK at 16, and went to university here at 18. You will say I was old enough to "bare" with it...but trust me...my university years were a nightmare. How ppl ostracized me because I was "white", the "white ghost", and the hair, and the eyes, and the nose...it was picking and picking and criticizing every single day, the whole day. I did start to learn cantonese, on my own, with a book by Sidney Lau (taugh the british police coming to HK in the 60-70s I think! its an old book but it is excellent), and pushed my way threw with forcing locals to speak with me. I've been here 14 years now, and I think I am pretty fluent.
    I think you daughter is going against learning because she feels outcast. The other kids may not be nice to her. I knew of a little french blond boy, about 5 yo, who was like your daughter and who felt "ugly". He was undergoing the same as myself.
    Maybe try learning the language with your daughter, she might feel like she will be able to communicate with you as well. Boost her ego, and her self-esteem. I know I completely lost mine. Every day is a struggle to be "you".
    I moved to France (from the US) when I was 5yo, and I couldnt speak any french at the time. As you said, I learnt pretty quickly, and then I wouldnt want to speak english (my parents always did though, thats why I never forgot it). So, your daughter's refusal to learn chinese may very well be because she doesnt feel comfortable and is being put down. The teachers may not see it, because the kids will only talk to her, they wont say it out loud.
    Hope she will understand that with the language will come the power to be in 2 different worlds. I understand that it is a lot for a 4yo...I still find it hard.
    All the best

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