Deep Roots and a History of Innovation

The Mandarin Institute, formerly CAIS Institute was founded in 1989 as The Institute for the Teaching of Chinese Language and Culture by the Board of Trustees of San Francisco’s Chinese American International School (CAIS).

The school opened its doors in 1981 to pioneer Chinese (Mandarin) immersion education. During its early years, it faced a lack of available curricula, unfamiliarity with Chinese in the marketplace, and the absence of a formal pedagogy related to Chinese language immersion. One world-renowned expert visited the school and stated that Chinese/English immersion education was impossible. CAIS and the Mandarin Institute have proven it is possible indeed.

A far-sighted member of the school’s Board saw the need for an institute to raise funds not readily available to an elementary school. The institute would do so and use those funds to create and publish English and Chinese curricula for pre-collegiate education as well as train Chinese teachers for American and international schools. It would also create and manage student and teacher exchange programs while promoting and performing research on inter-language and cross-cultural education issues. In 1995, The Freeman Foundation became the Institute’s principal benefactor.

The Mandarin Institute began as a way to meet the growing demand for Chinese immersion training, pedagogy, and student exchanges. It has grown to be a national resource dedicated to growing and strengthening Pre K-12 Chinese language and culture education in schools throughout the United States. Today, the Institute offers an array of services and programs that addresses the challenges of American schools to develop students who are proficient in Chinese language and culture and prepared to access opportunities in a global economy.