The Problem With Chinese Schools

Chinese Preschool

I should be clear that I am referring to preschools, after school programs, weekend language schools that follow different regulations than primary schools. So what’s the problem with Chinese schools? Below I share my negative experiences with two of the Chinese schools my son has attended.

The first incident was at a Mandarin Immersion preschool. What they did to my son and his friend is considered cruel and unusual punishment. The second incident, my son’s after school program failed to pick him up and did not realize he was missing from the school!

Parents, we need to stick together and protect our children! We need to speak out so that Chinese schools can be held accountable and improve. That is my goal, improvement and higher standards because our children deserve better, at the very least they deserve to be safe. We must hold Chinese schools to the same standards that we place on English schools.

Mandarin Immersion Preschool Incident

After touring a new Mandarin Immersion school with a friend, we enrolled our boys in their summer camp. The teachers seemed nice and the new facilities were clean. Since the school was new there were few students. The director of the school asked if she could place our boys with their regular preschool class because they were the only two enrolled for summer camp. I didn’t think that would be a problem.

My son had a difficult time adjusting didn’t want to go to school. His friend cried daily at school. We thought they just needed time to adjust to a new environment. One day the teachers send a photo of the children eating steam buns, my son’s favorite. When I picked him up from school I asked him if he enjoyed the steam buns. He became agitated and screamed that he didn’t get any steam buns. I asked his teacher what happened, thinking perhaps he was being punished, she simply said our two boys are summer camp students so they don’t get the same food as the preschool students.

I was livid. Our two boys were given a SMALL DIXIE CUP of cheerios, while the other students received a plate of food. I searched through all the photos that were sent to us over the past few weeks. Sure enough, there were our two boys sitting there stone faced with their cups of cheerios while their friends cheerily ate watermelon and steam buns. I was so angry and sad for my son that I cried myself to sleep. The monetary savings for the school is MINUSCULE compared to the potential emotional damage to our children.

Our boys with their small Dixie cups of cheerios

snack time

The other students with plates of fruit, crackers, steam buns, etc.

snack time

What they were doing is emotional abuse, and even considered cruel and unusual punishment by the Department of Social Services. The teachers of the school said they felt bad but the owner of the school insisted on it because the summer camp tuition is lower than the preschool tuition, even though we were paying an extra $5 a day for meals that were included in the preschool tuition. The extra $5 a day more than covers the amount and quality of food they were providing to our children.

Would your kid eat this?

Chinese school meal

Half a hot dog bun and watermelon

Chinese school meals

It took a letter listing all of the schools violations before the owner of the preschool even acknowledged any misconduct. Turns out she was running an unlicensed facility and she is a repeat offender. That same week a little girl was hurt at the school and taken to the emergency room. Her mom messaged me privately about the incident. The school did not file an incident report or inform the other parents.

This school repeatedly failed inspections and could not submit the proper documentation. They operated illegally for almost a year before receiving their license. The owner runs other preschool locations and after school programs. Her after school program is not registered with the Board of Education. The owner has no formal childcare training or Early Childhood Education. As a parent, do you think she should be operating a child care facility?

Chinese After School Program Left My Son Behind

Kindergarten in our district is dismissed early so I enrolled my son in a neighborhood Chinese after school program that provides pick up from his elementary school. While inquiring about the program, the owner accidentally sent me another student’s registration form with the family’s sensitive information. This set off alarms in my head but everyone makes mistakes right?

On the first day of kindergarten I receive a call from the elementary school stating that my son was at the principals office still waiting to be picked up. Frantic, I called the after school program 3 times and each time no one answered. I picked up my son and drove him to the after school program. When I arrived they had no idea they were even missing a child. I walked up to the teacher doing a roll call and pointed to my son’s name on her student roster. It was printed there clear as day and yet no one realized he was not there. The owner accusingly says to me, “It’s the first day of school. I thought you picked him up yourself”.

Not wanting to overreact, I suppressed my anger thought to myself, let’s just see how today goes. At the end of the day my sister picked up my son from the after school program and it was absolute chaos in there. One of the teachers let her in, did not check I.D. or verify which child my she left with.

Later that evening the owner of the program sent out a completely unprofessional email to all the parents stating, “I hope the parents to be more supportive instead judge us and complaint why we are not in their kids class the first time. You do have your choice to drop your child at our school.” She continued with excuses about needed more vehicles, finding parking, and it being difficult not knowing what the students look like. She FLAT OUT LIES claiming she arrived early, even though other parents and the kindergarten teacher confirm they were late, so late another child was crying because he was the last to be picked up.

The owner offered no apology, no transparency to the other parents about what happened. She added that we won’t be charged, which shows how ignorant she is to the situation. Since that day other parents have told me that the program has forgotten children before, once leaving a child for an entire hour! One parent says she canceled her enrollment with this program and continues to get invoices. Several parents, upset by how the owner handled our incident, decided to transfer their child to another program.

The Problem With Chinese Schools

  • Many preschools and child care programs illegally operate without a license
  • Parents are unaware of licensing requirements
  • Owners violate regulations without fear of legal repercussions
  • Not much Chinese being taught at Chinese schools
  • Hygiene and safety issues
  • Disorganized business operations

It use to be true that Chinese preschools, day cares, and after school programs were cheaper than traditional schools. Parents overlooked many issues because Chinese school was all they could afford. In our city, Chinese preschools charge $1200 to $1800 per month. Even with these tuition rates you will find hygiene and safety issues, low staffing, and questionable business practices.

There are few Chinese schools and parents hesitate to complain when there are problems, therefore some owners of Chinese schools don’t feel the need to change or make improvements. Owners are unqualified to operate childcare facilities but see the demand for more Chinese schools as a business opportunity. Perhaps owners started with the best intentions but soon realized how demanding it is to operate a school.

Another issue I have with Chinese schools is that my kids have not learned much Chinese there. With all the schools we have toured, the main language used to communicate with students is English. Both my children speak Mandarin fluently at their age level. They speak Mandarin without any detectable accent. Yet teachers speak to them in English, against my pleads to communicate only in Mandarin. Where we live, almost all of the students at my children’s’ schools speak Cantonese. They attend Mandarin immersion school as a way transition into the American school system. The director of my daughter’s preschool has brought on a English teacher due to the demands of the other parents.

What Can Parents Do?

Learn more about licensing requirements

Parents can learn more about their state’s licensing requirements to ensure children’s health and safety at the school. For schools that require a license, the license must be posted in a prominent, publicly accessible location.

California parents, check if your preschool has a license to operate or there have been any formal complaints or citations filed against them by searching the CDSS directory. If your child attends a Chinese after school program, you can use the Heritage School Registration Form Search Page. Here is a link to the California Code of Regulations for child care centers.

Regardless of state, minimum licensing requirements apply to ALL programs serving children.

Hold Schools and Programs Accountable

When I first share the experiences, people are shocked, outraged, even mention taking legal action. Once they learn it’s a Chinese owned business the reaction is generally the same, “Oh,it’s a Chinese school?” As if that means it’s ok or expected. Even my husband said, “What did you expect from a Chinese school?”

What do I expect? What do all parents expect when trust their children with a school or day care? Parents expect their children are safe! How can we ensure our children will be safe? Ask your school if they have the proper license to operate. Bring up any licensing violations to the owner. File a report if no action is taken to correct violations.

Many parents don’t know that if an injury happens at the school they are required to provide parents with an incident report, even for a scrape or bruise. For major injuries the school must also report the incident to the proper state department.

California parents, here is a link to file an anonymous complaint or report any violations at a school.

Share Your Story

After sharing what happened to my son, other parents reached out to me privately to share their own incidents that they were not comfortable sharing publicly.

Parents, what are you scared of? Do you think if you speak out against one Chinese school that you kids might be blacklisted from all Chinese schools? Is it victims guilt? I get it. I had the worst mommy guilt. I blamed myself for selecting a bad school. But, let’s be clear, the business owner of the school responsible to be up to date on regulations and ensure the safety of the students.

2 thoughts on “The Problem With Chinese Schools

  1. Edward Z. says:

    Yup, this description of Chinese daycares, after-school programs, and summer school is pretty accurate. I’m not a parent, rather I attended one of these schools when I was in grade school over a decade ago. I have to admit those were bad times for me as a kid and they’re partly to blame for my miserable childhood. Most of the teachers there couldn’t care less about your children especially if they misbehave. I have to say though, I believe this is just the attitude that most boomer Chinese immigrants take with their kids. They believe that a kid’s job is to listen to adults and stay quiet. This was the exact same philosophy used by the people that ran the Chinese school. Although, instead of steamed buns, the principal though it was okay to feed the children McDonalds, cheap pizza, and westernized Chinese food. Because it was economical I guess. (But obviously terrible for your kid’s health.) I believe it was a way that your kids will leave with at least one positive experience out of it.
    Possibly the worst thing about the school was the cleanliness. There were very obvious cockroaches crawling around and the carpets were old and full of dirt. Mind you, kids often play on the carpets with Legos that the school provided. Yikes. Anyways, I didn’t write this to bash Chinese people or their schools. Just know that, for most of these establishments, your child’s education and well-being rank pretty low on their list of priorities. Your money and their profit are at the top. Cheers

    • Jeanne Chang says:

      Hello Edward. I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with Chinese schools when you were a child. I don’t want to bash Chinese businesses. I want to advocate for improvement. We are all at fault because we tend to set the bar lower for Chinese schools because we have few options. We would not stand for this at any other school, right?!

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