Trilingual education by immersive teaching method

At SPIS, we have a unique language education policy. We advocate multilingualism because researches show that it increases your cognitive abilities such as problem-solving, creativity, and memory!

Why English, Mandarin and Spanish? Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world in terms of the number of native speakers whilst Spanish and English are the second and third most spoken language in the world respectively. SPIS covers these three languages in our curriculum so that our students will be able to speak the three most important languages in the world.

Some parents may worry that multilingual exposure may hinder the language development of their children. This is actually proven to be false. In Europe, majority of the people are multilingual because they were encouraged to learn two or more languages when they were at school. The European policy objective of a trilingual population (national language, English, another language) is already met by a number of European countries such as Luxembourg (84%), the Netherlands (77%) and Denmark (56%).

To make learning languages easier and more interesting, we adopt immersive teaching method at SPIS. That means students are not learning the three languages at the language class ONLY, they also learn other foundation subjects in these three languages as medium of instruction. This immersive teaching method is found effective by our counterparts in Europe and America.  In consultation with our academic advisors, Professor David Liu and Professor Wang Lixun, we have thoroughly thought through our language education policy and came to a conclusion that English will be the main medium of instruction (40%), complemented equally by Spanish and Chinese (Mandarin) (30%). Nevertheless, the percentages (40%, 30%, 30%) are a rough estimation because flexibility is necessary to facilitate teaching and learning in different contexts.

Also, to cultivate a truly trilingual campus environment, three languages will be used interchangeably in morning assembly, school events and meetings, so that students will be fully immersed in these three languages throughout their school life.

Explicit Instructional Guidance

Another key feature of our pedagogy is the use of direct teaching method, also referred as explicit instruction approach. In the quest to maximize students’ academic growth, one of the best teaching method is the explicit instruction approach — a structured, systematic, and effective methodology for teaching academic skills. It is called explicit because it is an unambiguous and direct approach to teaching that includes both instructional design and delivery procedures. Instead of providing instruction that contains unguided or partly guided segments, Explicit instruction is characterized by a series of supports or scaffolds, whereby students are guided through the learning process with clear statements about the purpose and rationale for learning the new skill, clear explanations and demonstrations of the instructional target, and supported practice with feedback until independent mastery has been achieved.

Rosenshine (1987) described this form of instruction as “a systematic method of teaching with emphasis on proceeding in small steps, checking for student understanding, and achieving active and successful participation by all students”. Decades of research clearly demonstrate that for novices (comprising virtually all students), direct and explicit instruction is more effective and efficient than partial guidance. All instructional decisions are based entirely on student needs and performance. We believe that when students have firm foundation in fundamental knowledge and languages, they will be ready to construct their own knowledge and become fluent and automatic on their own.


Richard E. CLARK, Paul A. KIRSCHNER, and John SWELLER, Putting Students on the Path to Learning. The Case for Fully guided instruction, American Educator, Spring 2012