Shanghai students to focus more on Pinyin at first

Some 20 percent fewer characters will have to be learned during a child’s first two years of school in Shanghai, with more attention being devoted to Pinyin. I’d be happier if this were everywhere, including areas where the native language is Mandarin, but this is good news nonetheless.

Shanghai primary school students will be required to learn 20 percent fewer Chinese characters but spend more time on pinyin in their first two school years, the Shanghai Education Commission said yesterday.

The reform is meant to ease the study burden by making language learning less of a chore.

Starting in the spring semester which beings next week, first-year students will be required to recognize 364 Chinese characters compared with the previous 460.

Altogether 205 characters will be canceled in first two school years out of the former 1,000-plus.

“Despite the city’s education reform, studies we’ve performed in the past months still suggested that young pupils were over-burdened with character recognition and writing tasks. And that reduces a child’s interest in learning,” said Qu Jun, the education commission’s vice director.

Most of the characters eliminated from the requirement list were considered complicated. The canceled contents might be left for extracurricular self-study or postponed to be taught later, authorities said.

It wouldn’t be much help if students have to learn those characters during the same years anyway, just outside of school. Postponing the memorizing of them is the only way for this to make any real difference.

But commission officials said that they haven’t worked out any punishments yet for those who violate the rule.

Also, teachers are being required to spend more time on pinyin — a system that translates Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet — during the first two years of school.

The final paragraph above has a serious error. Pinyin is not “a system that translates Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet.” This sort of thinking is behind a lot of the confusion related to the nature of Chinese characters, the sinitic languages, and Pinyin. The distinction is important: Pinyin is for the Mandarin language, not for Chinese characters.

source: Primary students learn less Chinese characters, Shanghai Daily (via Xinhua), February 10, 2006

2 thoughts on “Shanghai students to focus more on Pinyin at first

  1. Why concentrate more on an romanization system if the native system is Hanzi. In my opinion, Bopomofo is a greater system just because it relies on radicals rather than the roman alphabet. Pinyin should be restricted to learning for foriegners.

  2. Because pinyin is extremely easy to grasp and remember (virtually no memorisation required – would I rather memorise 26 letters or 3000 characters, hmmm……what a tough question…..) something that characters or radicals isn’t.

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