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Friday, June 22, 2012



Surviving Chinese School Without Tuition

My daughter is in Primary 4 in a Chinese School. Recently, she told me that her teacher had singled out the Chinese Essay she had written during her mid term exams as the best in the class. She was very excited to tell me about it.


"Mom, teacher even remembered how many marks I received when she was telling the class and she knew exactly what I wrote, mom!"

The teacher had informed everyone that she comes from a home where her parents do not understand nor speak Chinese. Teacher said 

"If she can do it, you all can too!"

I'm really happy for her. It is mostly her own effort. We do not send her for any tuition. When she was in Primary 1, we did get one of her kindergarten teacher to come in to converse to her in Mandarin. This was to ease her transition to school so that she would understand what the teacher was talking about. We instructed the teacher NOT to give any written homework. The 'tuition' was on conversational Chinese and a little bit of reading because we did not want to burden her. The teacher would sometimes give her 'assignments' like "go and make two new friends today and find out their names for me for the next lesson. Then they would talk about what happened in school ... in Mandarin. No English is to be used during the class accept a little for explanation if my girl did not understand. However, the teacher was not punctual and always cancelling classes so eventually we stopped after half a year.

We decided to let my girl go for the school tuition in Std 3. She would stay back in school for 2 hours once a week. However, we found that it only added to her homework burden with an extra workbook and additional hours spent in school. There was no value added, only time wasted so we stopped that after half a year too. 

I must say that deciding to stop was very hard. Always on my mind was, what if. What if I made a mistake. What if she needed extra help and there is no one to give it to her. What if? 

We went ahead and stopped the tuition classes and I am glad we did. She is still burdened with lots of homework but we saved 2 hours a week. 

I started learning Chinese along with my kids when they started kindergarten. I was able to guide them along by studying along with them using an electronic dictionary. However, I am able to do this up to Std 2 and a little Std 3 Level. The Std 4 Level is beyond me now. So many difficult words, phrases and idioms to learn. So my girl has to rely on herself now.

During Parents Teacher's Day last year, her teacher advised us to let her copy a lot of essays. "It's okay if she does not understand the words yet, let her copy as many as she can to learn. Get her essay books to read." The teacher has been doing this as well. My girl has to go to school early twice a week to write 2 essays. She said she used idioms and tried to incorporate everything teacher thought into her 'winning' essay. I'm really proud of her. She did it on her own without help from us. Every time she comes to me for help, I have to say "I'm sorry, this is too hard for me." It is really tough not being able to help your child because of the language barrier. I try my best to help her using my trusted electronic dictionary. Sometimes I am able to but most of the time she has to do it herself. 

I hate this idea of rote learning, of copying essays but perhaps her teacher is right and this is the way to learn Chinese? First familiarize yourself with the terms and the way of writing and then later on you will be able to write on your own. Anyone has any thoughts on this, feel free to share. By sharing, we learn from each other. 

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for the sharing. I getting a tuition class for my 6 years old girl, for her preparation to Chinese primary school next year. I will get more Chinese books for her to read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. .. and Malay books ... and English books. Mastering 3 languages really isn't easy. You have to pick which will be your main and the rest secondary because it is not easy to be good in all!

      Delete
  2. JD has a tuition teacher that comes over twice a week , just for one hour. No homework, but just to teach him some words and also conversation. I felt that she can teach better than me and she is very good cos she teaches jayden how to learn via games. i will also buy story books in chinese and she would teach him how to read and when he is alone, he reads the book himself. He is going to chinese sch next year and I will let him to continue tuition with this teacher. I just hope he will be alright otherwise we will pull him out of chinese sch and get him into keb.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sasha, sound like he is well prepared. My boy had a culture shock (well, almost) He didn't understand what was being said in school. He is still reeling from his culture shock at Std 2. Lol. The poor thing didn't do well in his Math and Science even though he understood the concepts perfectly and is good at those subjects all because of his language problem. So kesian.

      Anyway, I don't think JD will have a problem. You've done well in getting him ready. :)

      Delete
  3. Your girl is brilliant! Where does she copy the essays from? I'll definitely give this suggestion to Alycia too! Must your girl go to school early to copy the essays? If she can only copy early in the a.m., then my Alycia wont be able to do it as she's now a prefect on probation and has to be in school early to perform her duties.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Congrats on the winning essay. She is definitely a daughter to be proud of. Beside copying essays, I believe reading Chinese Illustration Novel may help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, she loves Chinese Novels. She is dreaming of writing one and is halfway writing her own novel on the pc. She is quite serious about it, working on the formatting etc but she doesn't have very much time to work on her "book".

      Delete
  5. Well done to your girl & to you too!

    My eldest girl BM is weak, I also getting her to copy BM essay now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder whether it works that way for BM and English. For Chinese there are just so many characters to learn that it is necessary to have lots of practice. For English and Malay, I am still wondering what is the best method to learn.

      Delete
  6. Bravo! One contributing factor is it you are a resourceful mom whom can guide her?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Only till Std 3. Std 4, I surrender.

      Delete
  7. Your girl will thank you for making those choices. Knowing how to read, write, listen and converse in Chinese opens up multitude of possibilities to a bright future. Unfortunately, my parents did not make the same choices and it's taking a toll on me now. My choices are limited, and I'm never the first choice of candidate for a lot of jobs due to lack Mandarin language.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, but her English will have to be good as well because there is no question that good English is also a must though knowing Chinese opens up doors. In Chinese school here, very little attention is paid to English. They teach languages in this order of priority. 1. Chinese. 2. Malay. 3. English. So, it is up to us, the parents to make sure that their English std do not drop too low.

      Delete
  8. Well done to your daughter. Thanks for sharing on how to improve on the Chinese lessons. Ashley is taking tuition now for her Chinese only and I'm glad that she has improved a lot. I still rely on nciku.com to help her with her homework at times. BM is so tough for Standard 1 now :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the BM standard is getting harder while the standard of English is dropping.

      Delete
  9. I hate the idea of rote learning too but starting to believe that the method might work for Chinese subject after several trials and errors. Any tips on where to copy from and any recommended books for that? The Chinese level in my boy's school moves faster than other schools. He is in pri 3 but already had an essay to write with almost no given words to help them through the essay writing during the mid term exam.

    I have the same worries as you, the what ifs.. what if he needed extra help on his Chinese subject and it's not given to him? He has no tuition at all, I couch him on all subjects.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps you can get him to copy his textbooks but for real essay writing practise, I suppose you should get him those UPSR Essay Samples. They do have them for lower primary too.

      Delete
  10. Wow, that's great! Thumbs up to your girl.
    May I know which kind of Chinese essay you get for your girl?
    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Her teacher gives them plenty of practise but you can go to popular book shop to look for Essay samples.

      Delete

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