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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?


  1. Chinese or English kindy? I just want my son to have fun. Though when I search for kindy, my criteria was to put him in a Mandarin class, but those schools that have such class do not meet my other criteria. So he's in a play based kindy, still there's homework. The principal said they are not Chinese based, but I see the teachers can converse in Mandarin well. I just hope with the exposure, he can picks up speaking and understanding mandarin, no so much on mastering Mandarin( he can learn that in P1 :) )

    I won't change him to another school next year. There's one really Chinese Chinese kindy. But I feel that emphasize too much on Ting Xie , spelling and ejaan and too much homework.So that's out from my consideration.

  2. it is definitely a parent's dilemma to decide which school should u enrol ur kid in malaysia? in singapore, the main language is english, no 2 ways... and mother tongue subjects are mandarin/malay/tamil. I find that better but I dont think it will be practise in malaysia yet with all the controversies.

  3. I know maybe this is not for me to answer this issue since I'm not a Malaysian residence. But as I read all your explanation, I think I prefered to put my boy (if I were you)at an English kindergarten you mentioned because for me FUN and LEARN should be go along together for early young learner so they will have a 'LOVE to LEARN' feeling when they're growing up. I can't think anything when decided to pick which school my boy should attend for this year, starting on July- except that priority, FUN, FUN, FUN.... Because I had learned from my 1st and 2nd kids that a national school is too much homework and often make the kids doesn't enjoy the process of learning. I'm a little bit sorry now for not take the 2 kids to a Montessori K and an English elementary school. Because I see how different the 3 of them in enjoying learning. Wow, too much blah, blah..from me. Ok, that's me..every parents have different opinion depend on their culture, background education, so much!

  4. IMO, giving very young children homework to do is a ridiculous practice. The early childhood years are precious as it determines on what kind of learners they will become in the future. We want the kids to love learning and understand that learning isn't limited to just what is in the textbooks and is an ongoing life long process. I'm not too keen on chinese kindies because they don't encourage play when play is in fact the nature of the child.They limit or stifle a child's natural curiosity and creativity. Many english kindies provides opportunities for kids to learn through structured play.

  5. Elaine,
    Ting Seah, Spelling and Ejaan for 4-5 year olds is simply crazy.

    Our education system is all screwed up causing a dillemma for parents of all races.

    Yes, my girl loves to learn. Unfortunately the very same kindy which she attended which my son is now attending had a change of teachers. The teacher came from a higher pressure type of kindy and as a result her teaching method is entirely different and now the boy has lots more homework at 5 than his sister used to have at 6 at the same center.

    Wannabe Supermom,
    I totally agree with you that giving a young child homework to do is ridiculous practise. It simply takes away the joy of learning for them making it such a dread.

  6. honestly, it is one tough question to answer...

    I am also in dilemma also for Jeriel...

    I heard chinese kindy will be a lot homework which I afraid Jeriel will lose interest with school since Std 1 onward in Chinese school he will be overload with homework...sigh sigh...

  7. I think English kindy...Chinese as a secondary language.

    Reason being: I love the ENglish language. I love the sound and the effect of it. And I wish to pass this love to my kids as well. Story telling and poetry and scrabble will be one family tradition I intend to start!

  8. chanel,
    Yah loh. On the one hand, afraid becos they may lose the interest in learning, on the other hand afraid they will have hard time adjusting when it comes to primary school.

    We're into story telling and making rhymes now but scrabble notchet. Hehe.

  9. It doesn't matter to me English or Chinese - my kids can understand both. I look for teachers who put emphasis on good manners & values. And encourage kids to be more independent. I'm not good at that. And school has to be well-managed school - security is important. My son in 4-year old class, so far no homework. Still learning ABC & 123. I've heard him reciting a number of poems...very funny, cause his pronounciation is not very good yet.

  10. Hi MG,

    wow.... a pretyy strong opinion.
    When i raised this question for brain stormign, didnt expect such a reaction.

    Anyway, i realise that we all have one common goal and that is to let thme have a good command of english and learn in a fun and creative environment.

    surprisingly, the chinese chinese kindy in my area (pg) is a lot more fun and relaxing than the enlgish kindy that my daughter goes to. Most english kindy here loads them up with few books of homework every day and spelling, ejaan and ting shea every week. On top of that, mosts kids attend additional englihg, and chinese class. i almost fainted upon hearing that.

    In the end, it comes down to logistics and affordability. If i can afford and distance is not a problem, i will definitely send my kids to an international school where they will definitely have best of both worlds.

    So, it's still a dilemma deciding for my son - fun, relaxing chinese kindy or busload of homework and kiasuism parents of the english kindy. I really don't know...

    when you mentioned baout mastering english from your last commebnt, i started thinking again... i supppose a likely chance that i will decide on chinese kindy (for fun and lless stressful environment) and extra english tuition at british council for a proper way of learnign and mastering the english.

    Ps- i sincerely think the english they teach at school is pathetic.

    what do you think?

    Thanks for sharing


  11. Annie,
    Yes, security and cleanliness is probably more important than these other considerations.

    Yes, the English they teach my girl at Primary one is truly pathetic. Up till now, she's just learned simple greetings, very simple three word spelling and the teacher is absent more than half the time. She is much more advanced than that now but I have to be hardworking and keep on coaching her otherwise she will lose her advantage and in the end be neither good in Chinese, nor English or Malay. (I don't expect her to be very good in Chinese because we don't speak it at home. As long as she understands whats going on in school and can pass her subjects, that is fine). I used to hate the idea of tuition for young kids but now I feel that if one does not have the time to coach themselves, then if you want your child to have a reasonable standard in English tuition may be necessary but they hardly have the time because extra tuition means extra work in addition to their heavy workload. I guess if you have extra English or whatever tuition for your kid, you should tell the teacher exactly what you want and that is, not extra homework but rather help or guide them to understand through reading, conversing, and helping them to do the work DURING tuition hours.

  12. hmm...i did toy around the idea of moving my girl to chinese Kindy when she comes to 6yo to polish up the mandarin, but i do agree with you, having a strong foundation in english is better. Mandarin is 2nd language and I agree with you, all I want is for her to be able to understand and read newspaper, that's more like it. To write poems and long essays, probably not.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  13. Through my own experience, in fact, my husband wanted my lst child to be in a malay medium sch but i strongly objected thro following reasons!
    1) Not good in Maths later
    2) in Chinese, the mastery of language is far better than govt sch.

    Now all my 3 children go to chinese sch and some r in o.seas now but we are not versed in chinese at all. They study on their own.

    Today, they are able to write and speak English fluently, chinese n BM thus, I dono see any difficulties if one is groomed from young!


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