Why Man­darin comes rst at bilin­gual im­mer­sion preschools.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - C NTENTS - LYNN WEE finds out more.

An all-Man­darin preschool pro­gramme? The thought of ex­pos­ing your lit­tle ones en­tirely to this tonal sub­ject in their early years may seem a lit­tle daunt­ing.

Af­ter all, the ma­jor­ity of preschools here fol­low Sin­ga­pore’s bilin­gual ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem closely, where English is the main lan­guage of in­struc­tion, with an hour or two of Man­darin lessons daily. But a num­ber of schools now of­fer pro­grammes that im­merse chil­dren in a Man­darin-rich en­vi­ron­ment, not only in terms of aca­demic sub­jects, but also ac­tiv­i­ties that cul­ti­vate a love of Chi­nese cul­ture.

Dr Lucy Quek, deputy di­rec­tor for early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion at Ngee Ann Polytech­nic, says that lis­ten­ing to Man­darin con­tin­u­ally en­ables young chil­dren to re­spond nat­u­rally and spon­ta­neously.

“They may not un­der­stand every­thing at rst, but the tone, fa­cial ex­pres­sions and body lan­guage of the teacher and other chil­dren pro­vide some form of in­fer­ence for the lis­ten­ing child.”

Re­search has shown that ex­po­sure to more than one lan­guage shapes a child’s brain, and it in­creases his abil­ity to switch as well as to stay fo­cused, she adds.

“Par­ents who place their chil­dren in full Man­darin im­mer­sion preschools are likely to be speak­ing English at home. Thus, the child gets ex­po­sure to both lan­guages. And, if pre­pared­ness for for­mal school­ing is in terms of lan­guage com­pe­ten­cies, it is a plus point to be in an im­mer­sion pro­gramme.”

So, how do these pro­grammes work? We speak to some of the schools that of­fer such ex­pe­ri­ences.

Chengzhu Man­darin Kinder­garten

Billed as a Man­darin kinder­garten, this preschool in Buona Vista was launched in Jan­uary 2016, and is part of the well-known Julia Gabriel Group.

Guided by the be­lief that kids learn Man­darin best from the en­vi­ron­ment they are ex­posed to in their early years, all its lessons and ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing lit­er­acy, maths and even phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, are taught in that lan­guage.

Even the school’s decor is Chi­nese-in­spired: it has a sto­ry­house – a cosy and colour­ful chil­dren’s li­brary that boasts some 2,000 books re­lat­ing to dif­fer­ent as­pects of the Chi­nese cul­ture.

The lit­tle ones are ex­posed to speech and drama, and Chi­nese Cul­tural Arts classes, which are taught by spe­cial­ist teach­ers. They are also in­tro­duced to aba­cus and men­tal arith­metic, which have a strong cul­tural signicance in Chi­nese math­e­mat­ics.

All Man­darin lessons are taught by teach­ers from China and Tai­wan. The Nurs­ery 1 and 2 kids have 100 per cent Man­darin ex­po­sure, while Kinder­garten 1 and 2 kids have an hour of English a day in prepa­ra­tion for Pri­mary 1.

How much Call or visit the cen­tre. Find out more

Eton­house Zhong Hua Pre-School

Sim­i­lar to the brand’s other cen­tres, Eton­house Zhong Hua preschool of­fers the same renowned “In­quire Think Learn” cur­ricu­lum, but de­liv­ers it en­tirely in Man­darin to pupils in its pre-nurs­ery and nurs­ery lev­els.

At kinder­garten lev­els, kids move to a bilin­gual en­vi­ron­ment with English taught in the af­ter­noon – giv­ing chil­dren the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop their English skills with­out los­ing the strong Man­darin foun­da­tion they’ve built.

Fol­low­ing its Reg­gio Emilia-in­spired cur­ricu­lum, the school has ate­liers that al­low kids to ex­plore the arts, as well as ex­per­i­ment with light and shad­ows. This helps stim­u­late won­der and in­ter­est, while pro­vid­ing young ones an al­ter­na­tive con­text to learn­ing, such as ex­plor­ing top­ics like length and height.

Ad­di­tion­ally, it has a mul­ti­di­men­sional pro­gramme to help kids de­velop a gen­uine in­ter­est in the lan­guage as well as cul­ti­vate a sense of cul­tural sen­si­tiv­ity.

Chil­dren have ac­cess to a range of Chi­nese cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences through Chi­nese paint­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy, lit­er­a­ture, and per­for­mance arts such as mu­sic, dance, drama and songs.

In ad­di­tion to its cur­ricu­lum, the school cel­e­brates Chi­nese fes­ti­vals such as the Dragon Boat fes­ti­val, and lesser known ones like the Chong Yang fes­ti­val (se­nior cit­i­zens’ fes­ti­val) to foster a sense of love and re­spect for their grand­par­ents. Its Man­darin teach­ers hail from China.

How much Even though the fees don’t come cheap, there are lim­ited va­can­cies for its pre-nurs­ery and K1 classes. The full-day pro­gramme for pre-nurs­ery costs $5,100 for a term of 10 weeks, and $4,900 for the full-day pro­gramme for N1 to K2. A half-day pro­gramme costs $3,700 and $3,600, re­spec­tively. Fees are be­fore GST and gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies. Find out more www.eton­ school/681-bukit-timah

Joy Lit­tle School­house

A child’s devel­op­ment of lan­guage is at its peak dur­ing the ages of three to six, Joy Lit­tle School­house be­lieves.

With that phi­los­o­phy in mind, chil­dren are con­stantly im­mersed in a learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment that is pre­dom­i­nantly in Man­darin – with only 20 per cent ded­i­cated to learn­ing English in prepa­ra­tion for for­mal school­ing.

From daily out­door play ses­sions to sub­ject ar­eas such as maths, sen­sory in­te­gra­tion train­ing and life skills, Man­darin is used as the pri­mary medium of in­struc­tion.

The school also has a unique the­matic play room where kids can freely ex­plore and learn from the monthly set­ups that are de­signed in line with fa­mous Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture texts. Man­darin teach­ers who were ed­u­cated in China act as fa­cil­i­ta­tors and in­ter­act with the lit­tle ones via role-play­ing.

As part of its Man­darin fo­cus, Chi­nese cul­tural classes such as cal­lig­ra­phy (taught by a cal­lig­ra­phy mas­ter) and Chi­nese paint­ing lessons are in­cor­po­rated into the kinder­garten lev­els.

In ad­di­tion, the school also hosts a Joy Lit­tle Story Club on the last Satur­day of each month, where kids can im­prove their lan­guage skills through picture books and role play.

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