In this blog, we will discuss some of the biggest challenges Singaporean students face when studying the Chinese language, and why so many turn to Chinese tuition for help. Studying for the Chinese language exam is different from studying for other subjects, because (1) it is a language that lacks a well-defined exam syllabus, (2) helpful materials are hard to find, and (3) schools do not teach the complexities of Chinese grammar and linguistic rules properly.

The study of the Chinese as a language presents some unique challenges, many of which can only be addressed with a good Chinese tutor. The syllabus, while structured, is not as predictable as science or technical subjects. MOE is not going to tell you which vocabulary words, or which sentence structures are going to come out for the examination (While you know for sure that trigonometry is going to come out in this year’s maths exam). Therefore while the teachers in school provide about 50% of the content that students need, the other 50% of required knowledge comes from general knowledge like reading chinese books or articles outside of class. The main issue here is that students do not know what to study outside of school, which books to read, or which articles to memorise. As such, having an experienced Chinese tutor to guide you along saves students a lot of time and effort.

In addition, when students try to find additional study materials either on the internet or at the Popular Bookstore, the materials available are usually too generalized to be of much help. Some of the online sample essays may actually be detrimental because they use wrong Chinese idioms or have grammatical errors. Simply memorizing and then regurgitating such essays during the exams will usually cause the student to be penalized in many areas. Thus, with a professional Chinese tuition teacher, a lot of guess-work is taken away, and students can focus on what is really important.

Thirdly, many Singaporean schools do not properly teach the complexities of Chinese grammar and linguistics. This is hardly surprising since most Chinese teachers themselves tend to be bilingual, and are not specialized Chinese graduates. Most MOE schools used a generalized intuitive approach to teach Chinese grammatical rules. As such, students do not have a systematic approach to understanding Chinese grammar (we see these errors in the many English grammatical formats present in Chinese essays). While Chinese tuition centres generally do a better job in this area, much more can be done to help students.

In order to address these issues, The Education Lab has specifically designed Chinese tuition lesson modules to address each issue. Our NIE trained Chinese tuition teachers have designed a curriculum for our students that allows them to improve their reading efficacy step-by-step. We develop and give out significant amounts of reading materials to each student every week (approximately 30 pages of readings are given per week, based on the latest current affairs and interesting topics).

In addition, we also developed a systematic Chinese tuition grammar module that teaches students how to approach Chinese grammar and slowly gain an understanding of its nuances and complexities. Over the years, we have found that these additional modules have allowed our students to skip the memory approach, and write a unique and grammatically perfect essay that distinguishes them from their peers.

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