A long, long time ago in far, far away land…well not that long ago and not that faraway, but in September 2013, and in Stoke Newington, Central London, Cenn John, father to a wonderful little baby boy, was pondering what to do next.
Earlier on in the year he had decided to change careers and had decided he wanted to get back to working for himself. He had set up an educational consultancy whilst studying at Tsinghua University in Beijing back in 2010, and had never lost the buzz of seeing a business grow from an idea into something bigger. He was doing the odd bit of consultancy work here and there to pay the bills, but working for yourself…well, it just wasn’t much fun.
As the father of a young baby boy, Cenn started looking into nursery schools, day nurseries and other forms of childcare. Knowing that nursery waiting lists in Central London could run upwards of 24 months, he thought it best to get in quick. He saw some amazing nurseries and nursery schools (and, admittedly, some awful ones too), but no matter how good they were, he couldn’t shake was the feeling that the little man would get more love, care and attention at home. It got him pondering what he – and parents like him – would really value in a nursery. What could they offer beyond the love, care and attention that they’d get at home?
And then it dawned on Cenn that, just like other bilingual nurseries, maybe it could be an idea to set up a bilingual nursery that offered immersion in Mandarin. After all, the language was due to be placed on the National Curriculum and the Coalition Government (and the Shadow Cabinet for that matter) had made much noise about the importance of learning the subject. Perhaps there were other parents who saw the value in their children becoming fluent in the language at an age where it was natural to learn.
Cenn set about researching the childcare and nursery sector and found that bilingual nurseries were flourishing, albeit in traditional languages like French. But in speaking to parents, he discovered this wasn’t out of any particular belief that French would be useful to their child in later life, but because of the growing appreciation of the cognitive benefits of a bilingual upbringing. “But what if your child could become fluent in Mandarin and not French?” asked Cenn. “Wouldn’t that be more useful?”…”Well yes of course. But no-one’s doing that…are they?” was the reply. Turns out there wasn’t. Until now.