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Friday, March 27, 2009

Chinese Kindergarten or English Kindergarten?

My girl is now attending Primary One in a Chinese School. Many of her classmates went to a Chinese Kindergarten so that they will be more prepared for Chinese school. My girl did not; because we were undecided even up to the first day of school (seriously!), whether to send her to a Chinese School or a National type school. But would we do it differently, if we had been more firm in our decision about sending her to Chinese school? Would we have sent her to a Chinese Kindergarten?

I think not. Sure, her classmates who had gone to a Chinese Kindy adjusted more easily to Chinese School. Some of them had even been sent to the Kindergarten of the school itself for 3 years prior to Standard One so they had no trouble adjusting to the language, the environment and the homework. So why not?

My son who will be following his sister to Chinese school in 2 years time is now attending kindy, the same kindy as his sister. It is not a Chinese based kindy. The main medium of instruction is English. Chinese is taught as a subject but thats it. I like this kindy because it has a good mix or it used to have a good mix, they have gardening, gym, sewing, arts and crafts, water play and not too much homework. In other words lots of fun learning. (which is something I think preschoolers should have). Well, at least in my girl's time there was not much homework but now even this school has succumb to the pressure from parents etc to have more homework and there is a lot more homework now. :(

I do not believe that children as young as 3-4 should be started on rote learning and learning to perfect their chinese character strokes and doing tons of homework. So I will not send my son to a Chinese based kindy. It seems that I have not learned from my past mistakes eh? So maybe he too will have trouble adjusting like his sister. ;)

However, the main reason I am doing so is because I want my kids to learn and "master" English first. My kids will have to grow up trilingual. They have to learn English, Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia but they cannot be equally good in all. I want them to be good in English first of all so my main emphasis is still English. I want them to learn their ABCs and to master their reading and writing in English BEFORE they learn their Chinese character stroke writing which is not an easy thing for a kid. Thats my priority. In other words, I would like English to be the core language with Chinese and Malay as the secondary languages.

Furthermore, I feel that among the three languages, English is the easiest to learn, followed by Bahasa Malaysia and the hardest of them all would be Chinese. That would also be because we speak English at home so that makes it easier for them to learn it. So it is easier to master English first, then move on to Chinese in primary school. (even if it means difficulty adjusting to school). I do not want to confuse them by pushing them to learn all three languages too early. It is better to concentrate on one language first.

Malay is harder to learn than English. I was frustrated going through a Malay revision book with my girl because even I couldn't answer the questions given. It would seem that only the author knew what was required. Hmmph! Ok. Ok. Maybe that doesn't mean that Malay is harder to learn but rather I got a lousy book but its by Longman. Oh, I digressed.

So, now my girl is doing her catching up in Chinese after having "mastered" English and some Malay. In school they teach them mostly in Chinese. Sure there is Maths and Science in English but I get the impression that the school places little emphasis on it and do it merely as a requirement. No wonder it was reported that most Chinese school students chose to answer those papers in Chinese. There is so much emphasis on the Chinese language that English is very low in priority. If I hadn't given my girl her foundation or groundwork in English, she would have very poor English. Not only that, I have to continue to coach her in English myself, otherwise in no time at all, our groundwork would have been wasted as her level of English deteriorates from neglect.

Why, from the begginning of the year till now, she has only been tested to spell 6 words and they are easy words like book, pin, bag. She spelt "bag" as "beg" (ie the Malay spelling) and the teacher gave her a correct mark, a star and 100% plus there was a stamp "Disemak oleh gurubesar" on that page and I signed the page to acknowledge it unknowingly! I only discovered the error before writing this post.

Right now, my husband gives the kids Math "tuition" at home and I am the "tuition teacher" for English, Malay and other subjects but mainly English and Malay while the girl catches up on Chinese in school after having attended an English medium kindy for one year.

Can you tell me what YOU think about this issue?

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