Pri 4 student writes to Zaobao to rebut woman who said Chinese standards in doldrums

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If you're studying Chinese, or if your child is studying the language, chances are, you would have some views about the state of Chinese education in Singapore.

Well, one former Chinese newspaper journalist had some pretty strong views and hashed them out in a forum letter to Lianhe Zaobao earlier in May 2022.

Spoiler alert: She doesn't hold it in high regard.

But here's the more interesting bit: Her letter prompted a rebuttal -- from a Primary 4 student.

Former journalist: Chinese classes today are "dull"

Let's start from the beginning.

The former journalist, Li Minwen, has three children who are in primary and secondary schools. And looking at the state of their Chinese education, Li felt "anxious for the generation's level of Chinese proficiency".

"The contents of my children's Chinese textbooks have not changed in the last 30 years, even the pedagogy remains largely unchanged from my time in school.

Aside from the usual themes of respecting the elderly and caring for the young, caring for the environment, racial harmony, and Asian values, Chinese education in Singapore today covers virtually nothing else. One can only imagine how dull and insipid such classes are.

In a time when we are bombarded with all kinds of media, how can this inspire enthusiasm for learning the Chinese language in our children?"

Li also singled out the rote learning method that students use.

"Basically, when my kids are learning Chinese, they memorise the model answer for the topics that will be covered in the exams. Even when it comes to writing, they don't have a solid foundation to write in an in-depth and descriptive way. Most of the time, they write like they're producing an accounting report."

It's the same story at the tuition classes which her children attend: They use a "force-feeding method" which equips children with the skills to pass exams but remains ineffective in helping them learn the language.

Li also lamented how her children were unable to communicate in Chinese, especially with their peers of the same age from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

She praised overseas Chinese language lessons that are available online, finding them to be lively and interesting, portraying everyday things very vividly through easy-to-understand short passages, poems, and songs ("They can even describe a falling leaf with such fervour!").

Li also observed that there were some Caucasian students in the online Chi...

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