Disney English is a chain of English schools in China operating under the aegis of the Walt Disney Company in the US. When the first schools opened a number of non-affiliated schools using the Disney name were shut down.
The first school opened in Shanghai in 2008 and there are currently 23 schools in all in the country. Disney aims to teach 150,000 children annually by 2015, expanding to 148 schools by then.
The curriculum is developed in the US and marketed as the Disney I.S.A.(Immersive Storytelling Approach).
Classes are for ages 2 – 12 and taught with a native English speaker and a bilingual assistant. There is great emphasis on individual tuition alongside fun activities and games; most classes have a maximum of 12 or so students. As well as classroom time there are set homework activities and an online component.
For parents the cost per child is between 3,000 CNY (465 USD, 323 EUR, 291 GBP) – 12,000 CNY (1,800 USD, 1,250 EUR, 1,126 GBP) yearly.
The schools are strongly Disney themed with theme rooms such as Snow White, Lion King and Toy Story, etc. There is also a Disney Magic Theatre which combines computer, television and chalkboard to teach. Disney have stated that if the schools are successful they will potentially expand into other countries.
A recent (Nov 2011) advertisement for Disney offered (along with the usual requirements):
- 24 hours max teaching hours per week
- working with assistant tutors in the class
- participation outside the classroom in various events; these were not specified nor the time needed
- starting salary of 10,500 RMB per month (1,650 USD, 1,146 EUR, 1,032 GBP) + housing allowance
- airfare paid
The schools have come in for criticism from various corners as being simply a marketing tool to promote Disney products rather than an educational system. For example, as a reward for classroom work, students are given “magic tokens” which they can redeem for Disney merchandise such as Mickey Mouse pens and bags.
It has also been criticised for promoting a very Western point of view including more general criticisms of Disney including sexism in the portrayal of women.
The company is currently building Disneyworld Shanghai at a cost of over 3 billion dollars.Image © Dina Goldstein from her series on Disney (and other) fairy tale characters
in a modern world; this picture depicts Princess Jasmine from Aladdin.