P4 student slams Zaobao letter writer for questioning standard of Chinese education in schools

Primary 4 student refutes claim that Chinese education in Singapore is not good enough

Singapore’s education system consistently ranks among the best in the world. However, nothing is perfect, and it is certainly impossible to please everyone.

On May 10, Lianhe Zaobao reader Li Minwen wrote a editorial about how Chinese language education in Singapore is supposedly unsatisfactory.

She was speaking from the perspective of a former Chinese journalist and mother of three.

In response, a primary 4 (P4) student argued that teachers and the education system should not be blamed for students’ poor Chinese.

Woman says Chinese education in Singapore is outdated and incomprehensible

In his letter, Li claimed that Chinese textbooks in Singapore have remained the same for three decades. She also said the scope of the themes was “limited” and “uninspiring”.

She noticed that her children, who are in primary 2, primary 4 and secondary 1, are simply forced to memorize the answers to the exam questions in Chinese class.

Even the schooling centers that her children attend reportedly use a “force-feeding” teaching method. As a result, they are “reluctant” to speak Chinese and cannot communicate with other children their age in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Li then compared the textbooks her children read for an online Chinese course abroad to those they get here.

While the Singapore textbooks mainly deal with themes such as respect for elders, environmental awareness and racial harmony, the overseas textbooks are much more “lively” and “interesting”.

For example, the latter describes things vividly using easy-to-understand essays and poems. Even a fallen leaf is able to “speak eloquently.”

Therefore, Li suggests that local teachers try more creative methods while teaching Chinese.

“In the age of social media, how can we motivate children to be more enthusiastic about learning Chinese? she reflected.

P4 student responds to criticism

On May 17, a P4 student wrote his own answer in Li’s opinion, saying she shouldn’t blame it on textbooks and teachers.

First, the student denied Li’s claims that Chinese textbooks have remained the same for 30 years. The student said the textbook he is currently using was published in 2015.

In addition, the education system has evolved with the times by integrating digital learning through the Student Learning Space (SLS).

They also clarified that they learned more than just “Asian values” and were exposed to classic poems, songs, and other forms of content.

Moreover, the student said that he really enjoyed his Chinese lessons. This is thanks to their teachers, who have put a lot of effort into making them interesting.

If they saw this article by Auntie Li, they would probably be very sad.

Student says blame shouldn’t be on textbooks and teachers

In Li’s letter, she also wrote that the students’ Chinese abilities were gradually deteriorating. This is despite the fact that students spend roughly the same amount of time in Chinese and English classes.

She recalled her days as a student at a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school and seeing everyone proudly speaking Mandarin. Now, she says, even SAP students learning superior Chinese still prefer to communicate in English.

The student pointed out that English is used more than Chinese because the former is the primary language for most other subjects.

Although this may be one of the reasons why students have weaker Chinese, it would be “unfair” to blame textbooks and teachers.

“Parents are the first teachers of their children. Aunty Li should talk to her children more in Mandarin at home and let them read more Chinese books,” the student suggested.

Everyone wants the best for students in Singapore

Despite Li’s unflattering comment, it’s clear that she simply wants the best for her children and students in Singapore.

Hopefully the P4 student’s answer 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 their best and improving as feedback comes in.

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Featured image adapted from Ministry of Education, Singapore on Facebook.