Learning Chinese with Module Combinations that Match Every Student's Ability
Monday, August 18, 2008
This is the second article in Schoolbag’s series of 10 features on the primary school Chinese Language curriculum. Read the first one here.
An earlier version of this article was published in Lianhe Zaobao on 27 March 2007. For a Chinese version of this article, click here.
Parents may naturally think that their children’s experiences in school are, when you get down to the basics, just like their own. But times have changed, and we educators must likewise adapt to a new generation of learners so that we can remain effective teachers.
When it comes to teaching the Chinese language, one major change is that unlike in earlier decades, many children now grow up in families speaking mainly, or even only, English. Thus, we are seeing more fresh Pri 1 students who have no exposure to the Chinese language. However, there are also students who have some foundation in the language.
How then can we teach all our Pri 1 students and bring them up to speed together?
Flexibility in an ability-driven curriculum
To tackle the challenge of easing students into the language without holding back the progress of those who have more exposure to it, we have adopted a modular system for teaching the Chinese Language. All Pri 1 students take a Core Module, and have a choice of a Bridging Module, Enrichment Module or School-based Module.
Simply put, this allows children to learn Chinese based on their individual level of ability. Students learn Chinese according to the exposure and expertise they already have at Pri 1. Each module has different learning content, which is customised for different groups of students according to their language backgrounds and learning abilities. The result: a flexible curriculum in which both students with a grounding in Chinese as well as those new to the language can progress at their own pace.
Every Module with its own objectives
The Core Module that every student takes is the most crucial part of the curriculum. It accounts for 70-80% of class time and students will be tested on its contents when they take the PSLE. In Pri 1 and 2, the Core Module focuses on the most basic learning requirements of the Chinese Language curriculum: listening skills, verbal skills and recognising Chinese characters. This aims to help students communicate with others in their daily lives using simple yet accurate Chinese.
By first teaching students to recognise Chinese characters, they can pick up new characters and grasp the underlying rules of using Chinese. This will also boost their ability to read more widely at an earlier age. In addition, contrary to misconceptions, students will still be learning to write. As they students move to higher levels, the Core Module expands to include the systematic teaching of writing skills, as well as more advanced reading skills, listening and verbal fluency.
The Bridging Module is designed for students unfamiliar with the Chinese Language in a classroom environment, who will receive more help to raise their familiarity with the language. Comprising 20-30% of total curriculum time, the module features authentic scenarios in which students learn basic oral communication skills, as well as some characters and words required in the Core Module. This advance exposure to some Core Module content during the Bridging Module aids and reinforces the learning process when students come across the same material in the Core Module later.
For students who already have some ability and interest in Chinese, the Enrichment Module offers a greater dose of depth. Like the Bridging Module, the Enrichment Module takes up 20-30% of curriculum time. Students get to read essays of literary quality and cultural significance to expand their vocabulary and knowledge horizons.
Students who are not taking the Bridging Module or Enrichment Module will be assigned to a School-based Module after they complete the Core Module. It is designed by teachers of for their own school, in order to meet the specific needs of their students.
No, it’s not “streaming”
Although students can take various pathways according to their abilities, the modular approach isn’t a disguised form of “streaming”. Students are not going to be locked into a particular module combination. Before deciding on a suitable combination for each student, teachers will observe the students’ progress and consult parents too. And as students make headway, they will be able to switch tracks as their learning needs change.
In short, the modular approach offers new flexibility and breadth in teaching Chinese. Every student can hone his or her Chinese language skills more effectively, according to his or her respective ability and background, without affecting or impeding the experience of their classmates. For students, teachers and parents, we hope this will make learning the Chinese language a positive and enriching experience.
For more information on the new Chinese Language curriculum for primary schools, an English-language brochure (PDF) is available from the MOE website.
Low Chun Meng
Chinese Language Curriculum Planning Officer
- Bridging Module - 导入单元
- Core Module - 核心单元 Enrichment Module - 深广单元
- School-based Module - 校本单元
- Bridging Module 导入单元
- Core Module 核心单元
- Enrichment Module 深广单元
- School-based Module 校本单元