SINGAPORE: A new Chinese language curriculum for pre-schools and kindergartens, with content set in the local context, was launched on Wednesday (Jan 3) by Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung at the PCF Sparkletots pre-school at Gambas in Yishun.
Developed by the Confucius Institute of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the curriculum features scenes of Singaporean daily life that children can relate to, like experiences in an HDB setting, said NTU in a media release.
It also includes local stories and incidents, such as Sang Nila Utama’s founding of Singapura, the clean-up of Singapore River as well as the Bukit Ho Swee fire.
The curriculum, titled Chinese for Early Learners, comprises 68 books, 544 lesson plans, 2,800 flashcards and 16 student activity books. Funded by NTU, the curriculum is aligned with the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Nurturing Early Learners framework and caters to four pre-school levels: Nursery 1 and 2, as well as Kindergarten 1 and 2.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Ong, who also oversees the Chinese Community Liaison Group, said that learning any language – including Chinese – has to be a ground-up initiative.
The books are compatible with reading pens that can read the text aloud when pressed against the words on a page. Five Singaporean children are behind the voices of the reading pens.
A group of 12 students from ITE College Central designed five desktop computer games which are tied to the books’ content, and children can access these language games starting Wednesday.
“We set out to develop a localised Chinese curriculum for pre-schoolers as materials used by some pre-schools are sourced from other countries, or may not be of high quality,” said Confucius Institute’s director, Neo Peng Fu.
He added that many of the textbooks are imported from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. “Our newly developed curriculum would also be helpful to pre-school operators that may not have the resources to design their own curriculum.”
NTU added that the teaching resource team at the Confucius Institute has worked with 20 academics and pre-school educators from China since 2015 to design and develop lesson plans, book content and nursery rhymes from scratch. Pilot tests of the new content were also conducted.
“The reason we wanted to bring them in as partners is (because) I think China has a very well-developed curriculum in pre-school education,” Dr Neo said. “So by working through them, we could learn from their experience and professionalism they have already built on over the years.”
NTU plans to meet anchor operators and private childcare centres from Wednesday to share the newly developed curriculum.
It is also exploring the possibility of translating the resources into Malay and Tamil in the future.
Currently, PCF pre-schools use their own Chinese curriculum designed in-house, which is translated from their English curriculum. However, PCF is exploring the use of the new syllabus as a supplement, according to Ng Lay Tin, Executive Principal of PCF Headquarters.
The Confucius Institute is the first Chinese language and culture school in Singapore co-sponsored by the Chinese central government.
Established by NTU and the Office of Chinese Language Council International in August 2005, the Confucius Institute “aims to strengthen Singapore’s Mandarin capabilities, providing Singapore with a common platform in learning Chinese language and culture, and enhancing the communication link between Singapore and Chinese communities in other parts of the world,” according to information on its website.
Partners of the Confucius Institute include Shandong University, the Beijing Foreign Studies University, Singapore’s National Library Board, PAP Community Foundation and Singapore Workforce Development Authority.
Additional reporting by Wendy Wong