We are ill prepared for Chinese School. With our indecisiveness, we had not prepared our girl to feel at ease in a Chinese School.

In her school, I would say around 70% of the children are from English speaking homes. However, most of the children can speak Mandarin. This is because the parents have prepared the kids well by sending the kids to at least 2-3 years of Chinese preschool. Meaning the kids attended a Chinese kindergarden where the main medium of instruction is Chinese. Even the little Indian boy in my girl’s class speaks Mandarin fluently by now at Standard One.

There are 2 special Std One classes in her school. In each of these classes, the number of students is lesser ie around 35 and 10% of them are muslims and non-chinese. This is to make sure that these students have a better chance of catching up, plus it makes it easier for them to attend Agama classes etc. I would have preferred my girl to be in one of these classes but…

Altogether there are 7 Std One Classes with about 40 students to a class with the exception of the 2 special classes I mentioned. I guess this is not too crowded a figure. Some Chinese schools have bigger numbers than these, more classes and with about 50 to a class I heard.

The environment in a Chinese school is really competitive. During orientation, we are handed a list of curriculum activities which the kids can attend after school (for a fee of course). After school activities (1.30-3.10/3.40pm) which start next week, are compulsory for kids from Standard 3 onwards. The younger ones have a choice. They can join Arts & Crafts, Badminton, Taekwando, Drama, Hanyu Pinyin classes, etc etc. Its a long list.  It makes it easier for the parents, I guess. Kids can stay back, have lunch, then join in a class, and you pick them up later. So you don’t have to ferry your kids from one place to another for activities.

It seems almost tempting to join some activities for various reasons….eg: for extra Chinese classes because I am afraid she is so lost, so that she can make more friends from school from doing shared activities because she says she has no friends, or simply because she likes some of those activities.

I have to remind myself to allow her to slowly settle in first and those other extras can wait although I am not sure whether they are allowed to join midterm. So I did not fill up any of those forms for extra activities. Parents have started to arrange tuition because, some of them, like me, found that they are ill prepared and the child is very lost. Some of them have even approached the class teacher to form a group for extra tuition for their kids. Its that competitive! Scary.

No matter how unkiausu you are, you’re going to be caught up and get lost in the whirlpool of competitiveness. First, you might have to send  your kid for extra Mandarin tuition to make sure she can follow the classes, then you may send him or her for some Arts and Drama classes etc to foster creativity to counter the rote learning methods so that they learn to think out of the box, then you may send them for English classes to make sure their standard of English do not drop etc. This is what I’ve heard. I haven’t experienced all this yet but I think I have one foot in now by trying to find ways to make sure my girl can follow whats going on in class because I cannot help her. And thats another sad thing because I so want to be able to help and guide her personally.

I realise that my mistake is not preparing my girl enough in conversational chinese. She may be able to read and write but she cannot speak or understand spoken Mandarin. She cannot make friends and she cannot understand what the teachers are saying and that makes her miserable. Even the Malay and English teachers give instructions in Mandarin so she is totally lost. We have asked her kindy teacher to come 2-3 times a week to help her out, sort of like giving her an intensive or crash course in spoken Mandarin for one or two months.

I have always maintained that I hate giving my kid extra tuition but only after the first week of school, I have resorted to this! Its madness. I am still full of reservations about sending my kid to Chinese school but lets wait and see. I will keep on updating our progress.

Although I have said that we did not prepare my girl enough by not sending her to a Chinese environment preschool, this is still something I do not want to do. I have sent my boy to a normal English speaking preschool. This is because I want them to be good in English first before Chinese. I want them to learn to think in English and want them to learn Chinese as a second language. I prefer it if they learn Chinese as a language rather than as the main medium of instruction but it would seem I have no choice. I feel that my girl’s English is quite ok for her age and so now she can start learning her Mandarin. If it were the other way, had I sent her to a Chinese medium preschool, then she would probably be poorer in English. You can’t have everything. The kids have to learn English, Chinese AND Malay. I feel that you have to choose which language you want your child to excel in or you’d be in a situation where they are the jack of trades and the master of none. They’d know every language but they would not be very good in any of them.

Shoppingmum, is this post cheong hei enough for you? I have more. Hahaha.

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