There’s no real advantage in sending my child to a Chinese preschool in Singapore.
My child will fall behind in English.
What exactly IS the difference between regular preschools and Chinese preschools in Singapore anyway?
These are just some of the questions and concerns that many parents have when it comes to the benefits of enrolling their children in a Chinese preschool.
Now, more than ever, there are great and far-reaching benefits to learning Mandarin. But will learning the language early on really help your child thrive in his or her later school years?
Let us dive right into the Chinese preschool myth-busters you always wanted to know.
MYTH #1: All lessons for all levels are conducted in Chinese in Chinese preschools.
Most of the core and enrichment programmes at MindChamps Chinese PreSchool are designed to be effectively bilingual for all levels, especially for the younger Champs in Playgroup and Nursery 1.
One of the main differences between MindChanmps Chinese PreSchool and our bilingual MindChamps PreSchool centres is that selected enrichment programmes in the afternoon are conducted in Chinese, instead of English. This helps to provide our Champs with more exposure to the language and the opportunity to communicate in Chinese.
MYTH #2: Attending Chinese preschools in Singapore will not help prepare my child to meet the bilingual requirements of local primary schools. It also will not benefit my child if I plan to send him or her to an international school.
Chinese preschools in Singapore should absolutely help your child transition well to local primary schools. To support this, Joyce Sun, centre director of MindChamps Chinese PreSchool at Tampines, gave an example of how essential Mandarin skills are for acing Chinese oral exams in primary school:
In primary school, students will go through Chinese oral, where it is no longer pictorial. Students must look at a video and the video might be about current affairs, or things that are impacting Singaporeans on an everyday basis.
The kids will have 10 minutes to watch the video before it is switched off, after which they must be able to have a conversation with the teacher about what they just saw.
So, if your child cannot speak and express well in Mandarin in a way that is natural, how is he or she going to ace the oral exam?
That’s where possessing strong Mandarin skills – and the confidence to use it – will prove invaluable. A Chinese preschool education provides just that.
Even for kids entering the international school education track, a mastery of both Chinese and English will give them a headstart over their peers, said Josephine Chiang, Principal of MindChamps Chinese PreSchool @ Cecil Street.
MYTH #3: Most children who attend Chinese preschools in Singapore have a basic foundation in Chinese and speak the language at home.
If we come from an English-speaking background, it will be challenging for my child to catch up in a Chinese-speaking learning environment.
Children from all language and cultural backgrounds can attend and benefit from Chinese preschools in Singapore. Josephine Chiang, Principal of MindChamps Chinese PreSchool @ Cecil Street, said,
“Research has shown that children between the ages 2 and 7 are able to absorb a third language best. At this age, we encourage children to love the language.
It is easier to encourage the children to love the language through reading and doing various activities as compared to children who have to pick up the language later during the primary school years. By then, they are doing it for the grades rather than interest.”
At MindChamps Chinese PreSchools, English and Chinese teachers are able to help children who come from different backgrounds to immerse in the environment.
Even for kids who do not speak Chinese at home, there will be ample support in school to foster the love and usage of Mandarin.
MYTH #4: If I send my child to a Chinese preschool, he or she will fall back in English.
This is not something Singaporean parents need to worry about. According to Joyce Sun, centre director of MindChamps Chinese PreSchool at Tampines, kids who learn Mandarin early on will never be at a disadvantage.
As Singapore is still predominantly an English-speaking country, a child’s English will be fine regardless of whether or not he or she is sent to a Chinese preschool. In other words, attending a Chinese preschool will only be an advantage for kids in Singapore.
A representative from the MindChamps PreSchool Curriculum Team agrees:
Singapore children are immersed in a bilingual or multi-lingual social environment with their families and social network. In MindChamps Chinese Preschools, our young Champs learn both the Chinese and English languages, taught by the respective Chinese and English teachers.
The Chinese language is taught and used in our Playgroup and Nursery 1 classes, with the aim to support our young Champs to develop their interest and passion for the Chinese language, creating an ideal immersive environment for them in daily learning and routine activities.
“From Nursery 2 onwards, we increase the usage and teaching of the English language. This will progress into the Kindergarten curriculum where both languages will be taught to prepare our Champs for their primary school education,” a representative from the MindChamps Curriculum Team says.
MindChamps Chinese PreSchool ensures that your child’s competency in both Chinese and English are developed.
MYTH #5: If my child attends a Chinese preschool, his or her interest in Mandarin will diminish – especially when my child already prefers speaking in English over Mandarin.
The aim of Chinese preschools in Singapore is to ignite, not diminish, your child’s interest in Mandarin – and to that end, the teachers do everything they can to nurture creative and divergent ways of learning Chinese.
Said a representative from the MindChamps PreSchool Curriculum Team:
“At MindChamps Chinese PreSchool, we embrace the enquiry style of teaching and learning with engaging ways to stimulate the interests and passion for learning Chinese by our Champs. We adopt a thematic approach, bringing lessons to life while enhancing the comprehension of knowledge and opportunities for our Champs to engage in conversations and peer interactions that strengthen their Chinese skills naturally.
“Having fun, engaging learning activities to nurture the passion for the love of the Chinese language is key. We provide lots of opportunities for our Champs to use the Chinese language and to further enhance their literacy development.”
MYTH #6: In Chinese preschools in Singapore, all the Chinese lessons will essentially be a repeat of the English lessons.
Chinese lessons will not merely be a duplicate of English lessons in MindChamps Chinese PreSchools. For instance, a representative from the MindChamps PreSchool Curriculum Team said that teachers teach in the Chinese language for enquiry moments, numeracy strategies, Love for the Chinese Language, Music for the Mind, NeuroMooves and Gourmet Moments.
Music for the Mind nurtures the Champs’ interest through music appreciation of songs, playing on the percussion and melodic instruments by themselves and as an ensemble.
The NeuroMooves programme helps the Champs to exercise and develop their spatial and bodily awareness. It will also help Champs with their memory recall, sequencing and rhythmic awareness.
Gourmet Moments enables Champs to make and prepare food as a way to develop their life skills, motor skills and creativity.
When these enrichment programmes are taught exclusively in Chinese, it allows for a wealth of new vocabulary, interest in Mandarin, and learning to take root.
Said a representative from the MindChamps PreSchool Curriculum Team:
“Our integrative Chinese Cultural Appreciation lessons enable our Champs to know and experience our rich Chinese culture. Our young Champs are inspired by the wisdom of Di Zi Gui (Chinese Proverbs) and our MindChamps 10 Values of a MindChampion, crafted to empower our Champs to nurture their positive, core values in their important foundational years.
“The aim is to use interesting methods to assist our Champs to learn and comprehend Chinese nursery rhymes, children’s songs, along with writing the strokes via fun, interesting stories. They also recognise Chinese characters through interactive games and conversations while learning traditional Chinese poems and values with understanding.”
MYTH #7: Since I, as the parent, do not have strong Mandarin skills myself, sending my child to a Chinese preschool is risky because I will not be able to help him or her with homework at home.
At this point, parents should not worry about helping their kids with their homework. While homework will come later once kids enter primary one, in MindChamps Chinese PreSchool, the focus is on learning Chinese in a fun way – not in a “textbooks, workbooks, and rote memorisation” method.
So why put this importance on fun – and how does having fun in a Chinese preschool help your child do well in homework later on, with or without your help?
“A lot of parents don’t teach the children themselves at all. If the children are already interested in Chinese, they would have the natural ability to ace it themselves even without the parents teaching them. If they don’t have the interest, even if the parents want to teach them, they won’t be interested and still won’t score. So it’s about teaching them and getting them interested,” explained Joyce Sun, centre director of MindChamps Chinese PreSchool at Tampines.
MYTH #8: Lessons in Chinese preschools in Singapore go by the traditional Asian education drill-and-kill approach.
MindChamps Chinese PreSchools follow an immersion-type learning environment that differs entirely from a “drill-and-kill” approach.
Said Joyce Sun, centre director of MindChamps Chinese PreSchool at Tampines:
“We don’t go by, ‘This term we learn these words, these phrases, and when we have met our objectives let’s go on to the next term.’ We make it fun and interactive such that children can ask questions, explore the answers, be engaged, and not even know they’re learning Mandarin because it feels so natural.”
As mentioned earlier, enrichment programmes such as NeuroMooves, Gourmet Moments, and Music For the Mind are taught by the English teachers in a regular MindChamps English PreSchool.
On the other hand, in MindChamps Chinese PreSchool, these enrichment classes are taught by Chinese teachers; the benefit is that children enjoy learning Mandarin in a more holistic and immersive environment. Chinese is taught in a natural way, not just based on textbooks.