Over the last few years, The Economist and Wall Street Journal reported on how families from across North America were doing everything possible to ensure their kids learn Mandarin. The reporters have found several families that have gone to unusual lengths. One Californian lawyer took a year's leave of absence from work and moved the clan to Chengdu, for the sole purpose of immersion in the language. Another family moved to Singapore in 2007, again only so the kids could grow up speaking Mandarin.
In Toronto, you don't need to go that far. Families can choose from a number of Chinese-English schools such as The Dalton School, a dual-language school where you can choose the English/Mandarin program. But the question many parents have is "will my kids really learn Mandarin?" Students at The Dalton School sure do, with a 100% passing grade on standardized tests to prove it.
The Youth Chinese Test (YCT) is a standardized Mandarin language test for elementary and secondary students which is developed, managed and assessed by the Chinese Ministry of Education (HanBan). The test is administered at an independent location on a predetermined Saturday during the year. The YCT is a computerized test with results coming from Beijing approximately 6 weeks after the test has been taken. It is the youth form of the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK), a well known Chinese proficiency test for adults.
The YCT was developed in 2004 to assess non-native speakers of Chinese language in the main areas of listening, reading, writing and speaking. The written tests are divided into 4 levels: (concentrating on listening, reading and writing skills), the oral speaking tests (listening and speaking) are divided into two levels.
Mandarin is difficult to learn. The language is tonal, and fluency requires mastering thousands of characters, yet the Dalton School students continue to surpass expectations with a 100% passing rate year after year. And what's more impressive, is that students begin in Grade 1, younger than the suggested testing age!