Singapore to begin new Mandarin curriculum

SINGAPORE : 25 primary schools will introduce the new [Mandarin] Chinese language curriculum from January next year.

The pilot programme will involve all students in Primary 1 and 2.

Anglo-Chinese Junior (ACS) hopes to be among the first to try out the new approach to learning Mandarin where emphasis will be on character recognition and oral skills.

All students will take a core module which makes up about 70% of the curriculum, with bridging modules for weak students and enrichment classes for those with ability and interest.

But the majority will take on, what the Ministry calls, a school-based module.

“Teachers can use part of the enrichment or bridging modules provided. They can also design their own school-based materials. This helps bring about better customization,” said Yue Lip Sin, Deputy Director of the Education Ministry.

Schools can break up the classes, so students can attend a separate [Mandarin] Chinese class with those of the same abilities through the year.

They can also teach the core curriculum as per normal and put certain students in the add-on modules for certain lessons each week.

Primary 1 students will be banded by their teachers only after they have finished learning “Hanyu Pinyin”.

Teachers at ACS expect about 20% to take up the bridging module and 10% for the enrichment class.

They add that the concept of ability banding is not new to them.

“When we group the pupils of similar abilities together, the teachers are able to design lessons that cater to their needs. They will be able to spark their interest in the learning of [Mandarin] Chinese,” said Lye Choon Hwan, Head of the Mother Tongue Department at ACS

Students will be assessed based on the core syllabus and schools have the autonomy to decide on the methods of assessment.

But the ministry emphasized that what is more important is helping students develop a love for the language, without making it unchallenging.

The ministry will announce the schools in the pilot scheme later this year and implement the new curriculum in all primary schools by 2007.

source: Channel News Asia

Transit signs, maps going multilingual in Singapore

If anyone in Singapore notices this, I’d love to receive some photos of this new signage.

SINGAPORE (dpa) – Signs and maps at subway stations are going multilingual in Singapore to help the elderly and others who might not read English, transport officials said Monday.

Work is expected to be completed by the end of this year on signboards and maps in Chinese and Tamil, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Station names in Malay are similar to English ones. “We are progressively changing the signs at all the stations,” The Straits Times quoted an LTA spokesman as saying.

The cost is S$600,000 Singapore dollars (US$368,000).

Twenty-five per cent of the 8,000 key signs at mass transit stations have been made bilingual so far.

Previously, only a handful of stations in the city had signs in more than one language.

Commuters who could not read English complained that they found it difficult to navigate the train system because the underground lines have no landmarks for orientation.

Singapore’s predominantly Chinese population includes 15 per cent Malays and 6 per cent Indians.

S’pore gov’t approves changes in teaching Mandarin

SINGAPORE: The Government has accepted the recommendations made by a review committee on the way Chinese language is taught here.

The bold changes set the foundation for a more interesting and less stressful learning experience for students.

It took 10,000 participants and nine months to come up with the recommendations.

From next year, Chinese language lessons will shift its focus from memorising characters to communication skills and reading.

Songs and even Chinese comics are expected to become instructional materials.

And a modular approach to primary Chinese education will be in place by 2008.

Under the modular approach, all students will take the same core Chinese lessons.

But students who have little exposure to the Chinese language will take bridging modules which focus on listening and speaking skills at Primary 1 and 2.

Students who need additional support can take reinforcement modules at Primary 3 and 4.

Those who display ability in the language can take enrichment modules throughout their primary education.

Schools can determine their own Chinese language and English language subject time allocation.

For example, Tao Nan School will implement two additional Chinese language periods per week next year.

These two periods will replace the time allocated for one English and one Science lessons.

PSLE examinations for the Chinese language will also change by 2010.

Project work and presentations are likely to be components of the overall assessment.

There will also be a shift to school-based assessment instead of a centralized examination system….

Teachers on their part are upbeat about the changes.

Lay See Neufeld, principal of Tampines North Primary, said: “We will be able then to tailor more interesting, more relevant lessons for children so that we know whether they need reinforcement or bridging or actually enrichment, so that we may be able to meet the children’s needs at a more personal level compared to what we’re doing now.”

But one concern is manpower.

Foo Suan Fong, principal of Nan Hua Secondary, said: “As far as this review is concerned, the teachers will be the key personnel to roll out all good programmes in school. So I can see that in future the demand of the teachers in both quality and quantity will be an area of concern.”

Ngee Ann Polytechnic will offer a Diploma in Chinese next year to train more Chinese teachers.

And the Language Elective Programme will be launched in one more junior college to nurture the talent pool.

With such widespread changes, the Government is confident in grooming bilingual Singaporeans.

Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said: “Our bilingual education policy must succeed. It is how we retain our pride and identity as Singaporeans, and how we will engage with Asia and the world.”

These proposed changes will be put in a White Paper and debated in Parliament this month.

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English as the language of the home in S’pore

The crucial social statistic to note is that a lot more Chinese households are using English for everyday communication. Education Ministry data show that in 1988, the families of 20 per cent of Chinese Primary 1 pupils spoke mainly English at home. The percentage has risen to 50 per cent. For such a short period, the increase has been startling. The presumption that the percentage will keep rising will be hard to disprove in a country which has English as the working language.