As an educator in a multilingual school, and a foreign expat that can fluently speak Mandarin Chinese, and relies on my bilingual ability in my daily life, I am a huge advocate for multilingual education. That being said, I do not think it is entirely necessary for everyone, and I think those wishing to enter a multilingual program should have some goals and realities in mind.
Firstly, you should consider why you would want your child to learn a second language. More opportunities in the future? College opportunities? Job opportunities? Do you want your child to live or study abroad? To reach these goals, what language would you like them to focus on in addition to their mother tongue?
Before choosing a program, set some goals, and think about things long-term. It is not helpful or productive to have your child switch programs all the time or go from one entirely different learning system to another. For example, switching from the public school system to the private education system (or vice versa) or from one private education system to another private school that uses an entirely different curriculum can be hard for any child to adapt too. They have to learn an entirely different set of classroom and academic expectations, make completely new friends, and maybe are taught in a language they don’t understand or have any support to learn at home. If you want to have your child learn in a language immersion classroom, make that decision based on the long-term goals you have for your child, and be prepared to support them at home with their academics. If you can’t do so because you can’t speak that language, take that into consideration and see what additional support or help you could give your child, so you can still stay involved in your child’s learning.
Secondly, do you want your child to go to a top college in China or not leave China (not study or live abroad)?
If so, a private school, multilingual international program may not be your first choice. The public school system and private run school system are working from an entirely different set of academic standards, and they teach each topic with different levels of intensity and rigor. If you want your child to go to a public Chinese university, know that they will be expected to know all of the same topics at the level that is being taught in the public schools and they will need to take the same “Gao Kao” public school students take, which many private multilingual schools do not prepare them for in the same way public schools do. Their ability to think critically or question, understand world cultures, or speak a foreign language fluently, will not be tested in this exam, which will put them at a big disadvantage as this is often the emphasis of private multilingual education.
“Successful multilingual program prepares students not just linguistically, or academically, but socially too for a successful life abroad.“
Chinese public schools do teach English in school. However do not expect your child to be fluent, or even taught by a native speaker. If you want your child to speak English fluently, but would like them to stay in China for college and work, maybe consider sending them to a top public school, and getting an English tutor, and/ or spending a semester or two abroad and traveling often so they can pick up the language.