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Just three years ago, “Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley,” a French/English bilingual school, opened its new Grade 6 International Track with only three students! The concept was new and exciting: welcoming non-French-speaking students into the middle school.
Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley has long been known for its bilingual program. EB is the oldest and largest bilingual school in the East Bay. We have seen more than 1600 students graduate in 40-plus years of educating children. Traditionally, families have only been able to enroll their children as preschoolers and kindergarteners at EB because students in the upper grades needed to be bilingual. If they had missed that window, non-French speaking families had no way to join this dynamic school community. Countless phone calls from families inquiring if there were any way to join the school after those formative years eventually spurred the school to action.
That resulted in the creation of the International Track in our middle school. Students with no French-speaking experience can now join our school in grade 6, becoming quite fluent by the end of grade 8, with a much deeper experience in learning a foreign language than monolingual middle schools offer. We welcome our new students as a small cohort of International track students: just 5 to 6 students. They spend about 40% of their time in their small cohorts learning French as beginners (six times per week), as well as math in English. The rest of the week is spent with the larger group of 6th graders (bilingual and IT together) for English, social studies, sciences, PE, music, and art.
Each student is provided with a laptop to keep, allowing them to fully dive into our STEM program and 21st century education — they learn to be tech savvy, excellent typers, researchers, and hone their online presentation skills. Students also study internet etiquette and how to carefully navigate their online presence.
The model is dynamic, allowing the International track students to transition from their small cohort to a larger group of about 18 students (bilingual and International track together). EB’s community is friendly, inclusive and diverse — a perfect environment for learning with an international mindset. Students learn to navigate their learning in two languages and experience all the benefits of the Ecole Bilingue Middle School: outstanding academics, focused social-emotional learning, an engaging student life that includes clubs, student council, athletics, the arts, and unique programs like TEDxYouth and World Savvy. Experiential field trips to Catalina Island, Washington DC and (the year of their graduation) to Paris add to a holistic, enriching experience.
High school placement
As educators, one of our goals is to make sure that our graduating students are ready for the next adventure… high school! EB graduates are exceptional students, and upon graduation they have acquired:
- Global-mindedness and cultural fluency
- Strong work habits
- Appreciation of differences and compassion
- The desire for lifelong learning
- Articulate critical thinking
- Mental flexibility and agility
- The ability to deal with complexity
- Tech savviness & a strong STEM background
- Strong communication skills
Our dedicated high school placement counselor works closely with each family so that students apply to the schools best suited to them; this is why 95% of our students are accepted into their top choice high school. They graduate proud and ready!