Primary 4 Student Refutes Claim That Chinese Education In Singapore Is Not Good Enough
Singapore’s education system consistently ranks as one of the best in the world. Nevertheless, nothing is perfect, and it’s certainly impossible to please everybody.
On 10 May, Lianhe Zaobao reader Li Minwen penned an op-ed about how Chinese language education in Singapore is supposedly unsatisfactory.
She was speaking from the perspective of a former Chinese newspaper writer and a mother of three children.
In response, a Primary 4 (P4) student argued that one should not blame teachers and the education system for students’ poor Chinese.
Woman says Chinese education in Singapore is outdated & incomprehensive
In her letter, Li claimed that Chinese textbooks in Singapore have remained the same for three decades. She also said that the scope of the themes is “limited” and “uninspiring”.
She noticed that her kids, who are in Primary 2, Primary 4, and Secondary 1, are just made to memorise answers to exam questions in Chinese class.
Even the tuition centres her children attend allegedly use a “force-feeding” teaching method. As a result, they are “reluctant” to speak Chinese and can’t communicate with other children their age from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Li then compared the textbooks her kids read for an overseas Chinese online language course to the ones they get here.
While textbooks in Singapore mostly discuss themes such as respecting elders, environmental consciousness, and racial harmony, overseas textbooks are a lot more “lively” and “interesting”.
For instance, the latter vividly describes things using easy-to-understand essays and poems. Even a fallen leaf is able to “talk eloquently”.
Hence, Li suggests that local teachers should try more creative methods while giving Chinese lessons.
“In the age of social media, how can we motivate children to be more enthusiastic about learning Chinese?” she pondered.
P4 student responds to criticisms
On 17 May, a P4 student wrote their own response to Li’s opinion, saying that she should not put the blame on textbooks and teachers.
First, the student debunked Li’s claims that the Chinese textbooks have remained the same for 30 years. The student said that the textbook they are currently using was published in 2015.
What’s more, the education system has kept up with the times by incorporating digital learning through the Student Learning Space (SLS).
They also clarified that they learn more than just “Asian values” and have exposure to classic poems, songs, and other forms of content.
In addition, the student reported that they really enjoy their Chinese classes. This is thanks to their teachers, who put in a lot of effort into making them interesting.
If they saw this article by Aunty Li, they would probably be very sad.
Student says blame should not be on textbooks & teachers
In Li’s letter, she also wrote that the Chinese abilities of students are gradually deteriorating. This is despite students spending roughly the same amount of time in both Chinese and English lessons.
She recalled her days as a student in a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school and seeing everyone proudly speaking Mandarin. Now, she says even SAP students who learn Higher Chinese still prefer to communicate in English.
The student pointed out that English is used more than Chinese as the former is the main language for most other subjects.
While this could be one reason why students have weaker Chinese, it would be “unfair” to blame textbooks and teachers.
“Parents are their children’s first teachers. Aunty Li should speak to her children in Mandarin at home more, and let them read more Chinese books,” the student suggested.
Everyone wants the best for students in Singapore
Despite Li’s unflattering commentary, it is clear that she simply wants the best for her children and students in Singapore.
Hopefully, the P4 student’s response will reassure her that the education system really isn’t as bad as she thinks.
Of course, it is impossible for the education system to be perfect, but the authorities are doing the best they can and making improvements as more feedback comes in.
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Featured image adapted from Ministry of Education, Singapore on Facebook.