With childcare provision currently in the spotlight here in the UK, Cennydd John, founder of the UK’s first bilingual Mandarin-English nursery, talks to Saffron and Cyrus about why he thinks there is a need for a more multicultural approach.
Parent power could prove vital in determining the economic trajectory of a post-Brexit UK. But could we be doing something more with the early years to encourage multiculturalism?
Cennydd John, founder of Hatching Dragons – the UK’s first bilingual Mandarin-English nursery that launched in the Barbican, London two years ago – thinks we can. He explained why parents are beginning to question the value of traditional nurseries and challenge the assumption that the language of learning must only be English.
The Need for a Different Kind of Childcare
London is a great place to raise a family. The opportunities for learning, playing and exploring are varied and almost limitless, but at times it feels like the price we have to pay is also never-ending.
For most of us, work is a necessity rather than a choice and in two-parent families it’s more common than ever for both to have jobs outside the home. But with childcare costs rising, it’s easy to wonder whether it’s worth going back to work.
Despite this, I’m still a firm believer in the value of nurseries.
They offer our children the opportunity to socialise, develop friendships and to apply our values in a real-life, social environment that helps build their autonomy (from us) and self-confidence.
And I’m not alone. Recent research from Oxford University and the Institute of Education once again prove the a structured and nurturing early years environment can make all the difference in later life, with recipients seeing happier, more emotionally stable and rewarding adult lives.
But so many fail to meet the exacting expectations of us parents. Onerous paperwork and regulatory frameworks can pile on pressure and easily lead practitioners away from the day to day focus that should be your child.On first impressions, for many parents there’s always the niggling feeling that we could do it better ourselves. This got me thinking about what I would value in a nursery, above and beyond that we can offer ourselves – love, care, attention and as much stimulation as us parents can muster.
What can be offered that we can’t offer ourselves as parents?
For both Cennydd and I, the answer is fluency in a second language. A language that would have a real positive impact on both our son’s lives and prepare them for a multicultural future.
And many parents appear to agree with Cennydd. Bilingual nurseries are rapidly growing throughout the UK, driven mainly by the increasing awareness of the cognitive and neurological advantages the dual language upbringing can have on your child.
All current research points to the fact that bilingual children have enhanced analytical reasoning; are stronger in concept formation and creativity, are more attentive and outperform their monolingual peers in almost all academic areas later on in life.
And no, like me, you don’t need to be a native speaker of the second language as a parent – the brain plasticity of a child aged 0-5 is such that language acquisition happens rapidly and naturally.I’m glad to see things are changing; driven, in part, by the changing needs and expectations of parents, who, like me and Cennydd, want more for their children from the money they put in to childcare.
For me, the language that would make most impact for our son has to be Farsi, given the importance of communicating with family members.
For Cennydd, the language has to be Mandarin, given the importance of the country today and what potential impact it can have on his son’s future. And that’s why he set up Hatching Dragons, the UK’s first bilingual Mandarin early years provision.
His team have drawn on the best bilingual early years models from around the world to produce something truly special: a cross-cultural pedagogy that enhances every developmental aspect of the EYFS.
His hope is to help children develop the confidence and capabilities that will allow them to thrive in a world that is increasingly intercultural, interconnected and international.
He wants to offer them the foundation to easily continue their Mandarin in primary, now that it’s part of the national curriculum, but at the very least prove to them that there is something more out there and that he’s offered them something beyond himself as well.
Most importantly, he wants to start a conversation about how we might be able to do something more with the early years: how we can use the time more to offer our children something unique; something that will make a real difference to their lives beyond which we can offer ourselves as parents; something perhaps worth the money we pay for childcare.
For more information, visit www.hatching-dragons.com
Hatching Dragons is celebrating its first year and is open for visits and registrations.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post. All opinions are my own.