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15 Nov 2004 [ CLCPRC Full Report ]

Government Accepts Recommendations for a More Flexible and Customised Chinese Language Curriculum

1.      The Government has accepted the recommendations proposed by the Chinese Language Curriculum and Pedagogy Review Committee, chaired by Mr Wee Heng Tin, former Director-General of Education.

2.      The Committee has recommended a Chinese Language (CL) curriculum designed to enthuse all CL students and develop in them an abiding interest in the Chinese language and culture.  This will be achieved through more customisation and flexibility at the primary level.  Further, greater emphasis will be placed on oral fluency and on reading for the majority of students, while developing stronger competence in the Chinese language and culture for those with the ability and interest.

3.      The Committee was set up in February 2004 to articulate the objectives and target groups of the various CL syllabuses, and to review the structure, curriculum content, pedagogy and assessment methods used in CL teaching and learning today.  The Committee comprised school leaders, Heads of Department in CL, and academics. See Annex for the list of Committee members.

4.      In drawing up its recommendations, the Committee examined the language trends and future demand on CL users in both local and global contexts.  It took into consideration the feedback and views from various stakeholders through public consultations and dialogue sessions, with primary, secondary and junior college students, teachers, school leaders, parents, academics, teachers unions and Chinese Community Organisations.  The Committee also drew insights from a comprehensive survey of about 10,000 participants1, school visits, and observations by a team of overseas consultants from China and Hong Kong.

Key Recommendations

5.      CL Curriculum Objectives. The CL curriculum objectives will be more differentiated to suit the wide range of CL students.

6.      Customisation and Flexibility at Primary Level.  The primary level curriculum will be structured according to a modular approach.  The modular approach will give students who enter school with little exposure to CL additional support in the early primary years to help them catch up.  It will also allow those with the background or ability in CL to go further. 

7.      At the secondary level, the Committee considered the current structure of the five CL syllabuses and found that these adequately cater to the needs of a range of CL learners2.  This level of differentiation should be maintained.

8.      More Emphasis on Oral Communication and Reading for Majority.  There will be a retuning of the relative emphases of the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing).  For the majority of students, there will be a greater emphasis on developing fluency and confidence in oral communication, and early proficiency in character recognition and reading. The emphasis on these practical skills will enable students to use CL more frequently, and thereby sustain their interest in the language.
9. Engaging and Relevant Materials and IT Resources.  Textbook writers will have more flexibility to produce texts that are engaging and relevant to the interests and experience of students.  Schools will leverage more on IT in the teaching of CL and students will have greater access to IT tools that facilitate character writing.
10. Assessing Students’ Ability to Use CL in Context.  In line with the revised curriculum objectives, MOE will revise its examination formats to assess students on their use of CL in context, rather than through the recall of individual words and phrases.

11. Strengthening Training and Recruitment of CL Teachers.  MOE will review its pre- and in-service training curriculum to ensure that teachers are well-equipped to deliver the revised curriculum.  To meet the anticipated increase in demand for CL teachers, particularly at the primary level when the modular approach is implemented, MOE will step up recruitment of CL teachers from both local and foreign sources.

12. More Opportunities to use CL in the School Context.  MOE will give schools, in particular SAP schools, some flexibility to provide students who can benefit from greater CL immersion, more exposure to the language.
13. Community Involvement.  MOE and schools will continue to collaborate with the community and media organisations to create an environment conducive for students to use and practise CL.

14. See Box 1 for the revised CL curriculum objectives, Box 2 for specific details on key recommendations, and Box 3 for the implementation timeline.

15. The Government has accepted the Committee’s recommendations.  The Minister for Education will table a White Paper on the Report for debate in Parliament in November 2004.


[1] Conducted by Forbes Research Ltd.

[2] These are Basic CL, CL ‘B’, CL Normal(Academic), CL, and HCL syllabuses.  For example, a student in the Express stream may offer CL, HCL, or the CL ‘B’ syllabus.


Box1: Revised CL Curriculum Objectives


A differentiated set of objectives will be adopted, in order to engage and motivate all students:

A.                  For all CL students, the common denominator should be to enthuse them in learning CL, so that they will develop an abiding interest in the language and culture well after leaving school;

B.                  For the majority, the emphasis should be on effective oral communication and reading. However, as the four language skills tend to reinforce each other, a judicious attention to writing is also essential to strengthen these language skills;

C.                  For students with the ability and interest, especially Higher CL students[1], the focus should be to retain the objective of developing fluency in all the four language skills and good understanding of Chinese history and culture. This can be further enhanced in the SAP school environment; and

D.                  For a core group of students in each cohort, the aim is to achieve both high proficiency in the four language skills and a confident and intuitive understanding of history, culture and contemporary developments in China. This can be done through the Language Elective Programme (Chinese) and the recently-launched Bicultural Studies Programme (Chinese).


The broad objective of using the teaching of CL to transmit culture and values is still relevant for the majority of students.  However, this will be achieved in a flexible and natural way that students find interesting and relevant. Cultural content will also include both traditional and contemporary elements.



Box2: Key Recommendations


The key recommendations are set out below:


(A) Customisation and Flexibility at Primary Level

·         With the modular approach, all students will take Core modules, designed to occupy 70-80% of CL curriculum time. Bridging and Reinforcement modules will cater to those students that enter school with little exposure or who require additional support for the Core modules. Students with the ability and interest will be encouraged to study the language at a higher level through Enrichment modules.

·         The current distinction between CL and Higher CL courses at Primary 5 and 6 will continue. Within each of these separate courses, students will take Core modules. Students may also choose to take Enrichment modules (i.e. CL or HCL Enrichment modules).

·         The CL PSLE examination will be pitched at the standard of the Core modules.

·         HCL students will continue to take both the CL and HCL PSLE examinations.

·         The current differentiation at the secondary level should be maintained. In line with the revised curriculum objectives, the secondary and pre-university curriculum content will be refined. 


(B ) Greater Emphasis on Oral Communication and Readingfor Majority

·         Strategies to systematically develop the oral proficiency of students, for example through songs, verse/choral reading and recitation, will be used more extensively.

·         MOE will further study the pedagogical principle of “Recognise First, Write Later” and conduct a pilot study of teaching approaches under this principle. The study will involve teaching P1 and P2 students to recognise enough characters to read age-appropriate literature on their own.


(C ) Engaging and Relevant Materials and IT Resources

·         MOE will give textbook writers more flexibility in their choice of themes and topics of passages, the use of the character list, and length and number of passages.

·         MOE will equip all students with a handheld electronic device allowing, for example, conversion of hanyu pinyin input to characters, by the end of 2005.


(D) Assessing Students’ Ability to Use CL in Context

·         Assessment will be based on a more integrative and communicative approach, where students’ ability to use CL in contextualised situations is assessed.

·         In the longer term, MOE will study the possibility of incorporating school-based assessment as a component of the national examinations to assess oral communication skills.


(E) Strengthening Training and Recruitment of CL Teachers

·         MOE will establish a more structured training roadmap for all CL teachers.

·         MOE will also continue its drive to increase its recruitment of CL teachers. One way to increase the recruitment of bright and interested CL teachers is to start a Chinese Studies Diploma in one or two polytechnics and recruit these graduates into CL teaching.


(F) More Opportunities to use CL in the School Context

·         Schools will be given flexibility to apportion subject instructional time for EL and CL and find creative ways to increase total exposure time to CL in the whole school environment, for example, through CCAs and the informal curriculum.

·         If there is demand, a few SAP Primary schools will be allowed to provide greater exposure to CL by teaching more subjects in the Chinese language, particularly in the early primary years.

·         More subjects in CL that are of an accessible standard will be offered to a wide range of Secondary school students. Students will have the choice to study Literature in Chinese as a Combined Humanities Elective. A new subject on Chinese Culture and Thought will also be introduced to focus on traditional and contemporary aspects of Chinese culture.


(G) Community Involvement

·         A committee will be set up to explore ways where our community and media organisations can collaborate with our schools. 




Box3: Implementation Timeline


As the Committee’s recommendations comprise fundamental shifts in curriculum, assessment, teaching approaches and learning techniques, adequate time is needed for these changes.  In the meantime, MOE will phase in interim changes.  The implementation timeline for the changes are as follows:


Revised Curriculum Implementation

·         Modular curriculum – P1 and P4 in 2008

·         Revised PSLE examination format – 2010

Key Interim Changes

·         Format of PSLE and O-Levels – 2006

·         CL Dictionary/Electronic handhelds for exams – 2006

·         Pilot “Recognise First, Write Later” approach

·         Review character list

·         Review of pre- and in-service training curriculum for teachers





Composition of the Chinese Language Curriculum and Pedagogy Review Committee



Mr Chan Soo Sen
Minister of State for Education



Mr Wee Heng Tin
Former Director-General of Education, Ministry of Education



Prof Chew Cheng Hai
Professor, Centre for Chinese Language and Culture, Nanyang Technological University

Assoc Prof Lee Cheuk Yin
Head, Department of Chinese Studies,
NationalUniversityof Singapore

Mrs Ho Woon Ho
NanyangJunior College

Mr Foo Suan Fong
NanHuaSecondary School

Mr Chin Kim Woon
PeiChunPublic School

Mrs Lay See Neufeld
TampinesNorthPrimary School

Mr Peh Chin Cheok
Head of Department/Mother Tongue Languages,
Anglo-ChineseSchool(Barker Road )

Mrs Soo Ai Kim
Head of Department/Mother Tongue Languages, Methodist Girls' School (Primary)

Dr Ang Beng Choo
Former Deputy Director, Asian Languages, Curriculum Development Institute of

Ms Ho Peng
Director, Curriculum Planning and Development Division, MOE

Mr Tang Tuck Weng
Director, Planning Division, MOE



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