Numerous studies conducted in recent years have shown how being bilingual gives children an advantage in skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking, as well as the ability to stay focused on a given task longer.
Locally in Singapore, there has been increased emphasis on the learning and use of Chinese among children. This has stemmed as an effort to balance the use of English as the primary language of communication in most households today, coupled with the increased use of Chinese in business environments wherein having an advantage in the language could lead to better career opportunities. The combination of all these factors has led to greater emphasis placed on getting children to start learning the Chinese language from a tender age and giving them a good head start by going through a specialised Chinese curriculum in preschool.
But how exactly do your children benefit from attending a Chinese preschool versus a regular preschool where they get scheduled Chinese lessons every day? The following are some ways in which a specialised Chinese curriculum in a Chinese preschool shapes your children’s learning and development:
1. It enables them to think, understand and communicate in two languages
In a Chinese preschool, a majority of the daily lessons are conducted in Chinese while a selected few focus on English. Chinese is also used as the main language of instruction between teachers and children. This creates an integrated bilingual environment which exposes children to both languages and enables them to think, understand and communicate effectively in two languages. As a result, the learning of both languages takes place in a natural environment, making the process meaningful and relevant.
2. Your child will master the rules of each language faster
Contrary to popular belief, exposing children to two or more languages during the first years does not confuse them – nor does it delay the development of your child in any of the languages.
In a study conducted on 72 infants at the National University of Singapore (NUS), it was revealed that one-year-olds who are exposed to both English and Chinese are able to detect tone changes in Mandarin. At the same time, the subjects ignored tone changes in English, which demonstrates their ability to differentiate the two languages and understand the different rules of each language.
The results of the NUS study affirms the fact that being adept in two or more languages helps your child filter the differences and similarities between them. Additionally, this also benefits their analytical skills as they exercise their ability to transfer skills across the different languages.
3. The curriculum lets them experience the language on a deeper level
In a Chinese preschool, the curriculum offers opportunities for children to take their learning of the Chinese language beyond books and worksheets by exploring elements of Chinese through culture, music and art. Their learning discoveries help to build a genuine interest in Chinese from young and allow children to appreciate and understand the language better.
A great example of this can be seen through the Chinese Culture Appreciation programme conducted during in-between terms at MindChamps Chinese PreSchool. During the programme, children from all levels will gain an insight into China’s rich history and culture through hands-on activities such as clay modelling, Chinese painting, calligraphy and more.
4. It prepares them for the mother tongue requirements in primary school
Upon entering primary school in Singapore, children of Chinese descent are required to take Chinese as their mother tongue language. Building a solid foundation in Chinese during the preschool years helps them pick up the language more effectively while the Chinese preschool’s learning environment encourages them to respond positively to the language. All these factors work together to help them cope with the Chinese language lessons and assessments during the primary school years, even if their parents do not have that foundation in the language themselves.
5. The learning experience helps to build your child’s character and confidence
Learning a new language such as Chinese takes time as knowledge and skills are gradually built up until they become proficient. The more time your child spends learning and using Chinese to communicate, the better he/she will be at it. Along the way, your child will also be taught on the importance of positive values such as self-reflection, compassion and integrity, which shapes his/her character in the years ahead.
All these and more embodies the MindChamps Chinese PreSchool curriculum, which focuses on nurturing your child’s mind in a positive Chinese speaking learning environment and inspiring them with the Champion Mindset. Here, character-building for preschoolers is carried out by emphasising a set of 10 positive values, each of which relates to a Chinese idiom and a story behind it.