• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 6:56am
NewsChina Insider

Beijing to remove English classes from early grades at elementary schools

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 3:59pm

All Beijing public elementary schools will stop teaching English language courses to students in grades one and two in a bid to reduce the study workload for children, local media reported on Wednesday.

Currently most students in Beijing begin studying English from grade one and often have two English classes every week. However starting next year, newly-enrolled pupils will not study English until the third grade, several Beijing newspapers cited deputy director Fu Zhifeng of Beijing Municipal Commission of Education as saying in a forum.

The latest education reform also promised to reduce difficulties in high school and college entrance examinations. According to Fu, this latest decision was in line with the extensive reform packages Chinese Communist Party introduced after its third plenum last week.

Phone operators at the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education responding to inquiries on education policy on Wednesday morning said they had not been given instructions about the reform yet.

Staff at several Beijing elementary schools also said on Wednesday they had not received any directives from the Commission.

The Beijing education commission last month revealed a proposal seeking to reduce the number of points allocated to the English language examination of the college-entrance exam. Feedback showed overwhelming public support for the proposal, the Commission told media.

The South China Morning Post also reported at least two other provinces were considering whether to reduce the emphasis on English language education by removing items from the curriculum or making it more flexible.

Online reaction has been divided over the rumours. Many hailed the reform that they said could help ease the heavy burden of compulsory English study for students despite the chance they may never use it in their future lives and careers.

But others argued that the English language is a skill everyone should acquire in the 21st century, and instead of reducing weight on English language education, authority should renovate the teaching method and to strengthen teaching quality.

Xiong Bingqi, vice director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a charitable public policy research centre, said the reform, even if indeed carried out, would be unlikely to ease the burden for students and their parents.

Parents would simply send their children to extra-curricular training institutions, Xiong told the South China Morning Post in a telephone interview. This would eventually increase the burden for less wealthy families, leading to “less of a burden inside school, but a heavier burden outside school.”

Instead, Xiong called for a thorough reform of the current exam-orientated curriculum that tests students only through their performance in unified exams. He suggested phasing out a unified college entrance examination and allowing universities to come up with their own entrance exams.


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This article is now closed to comments

In past articles on this subject, one of the rationales for this decision has been to "save" Chinese. Mandarin isn't going anywhere.
The article states that parents will simply enroll their children in outside English classes at very young ages because they think that will give their children an edge.
Hopefully the focus of the Chinese education system is more on research on what works best in educating children for the global society.
In Europe, the additional languages are typically not introduced until 3rd or 4th grade, after children have acquired literacy--being able to READ to LEARN--in their first languages. A good foundation in one's home/first language leads to success in acquiring additional languages, including academic registers of those languages.
In countries such as Norway and Sweden, the children learn their own languages AND they grow up to be fluent speakers of English and other languages.
Countries that aim to prepare their children for the global economy should study why European countries are so successful in turning out multilingual adults. It is because of good education policies beginning in preschool coupled with HOW additional languages are taught, not how young the children are when they start learning additional languages. If governments can distill this for parents, maybe they will concentrate their efforts on giving their children a good educational foundation rather than piling counter-productive linguistic pressures on them.
You made some excellent points. It would a shame to deprive students the opportunity to learn English. We are aware that the language is requisite to 21st century learning. Also, many parents are rightly concerned that English is the key for entrance to higher education in western countries.
I do disagree, however, on the sweeping generalization made regarding the success of bilingual education in European countries. The home literacy of a European language supports English due to the many similarities. Chinese is quite different in both linguistic and cultural forms. It is easy to become a proficient communicator of English by immersion. The learning of English for academic competence as a second or foreign language often proves challenging for Chinese students though. English is not easy! I have worked for years with native English speaking children. Even without the burden of a second language, many still do not achieve success. This is where teaching practices become critical.
Nurturing both Chinese and English empowers the strength of a nation. It is a worthy economical, social, and political investment. The government and schools can make a difference through targeted educational policies. Rather than top down, knowledgeable parents and stakeholders need to advocate for realistic and informed policies on behalf of the future generation. Right?
We are talking about a first language tbat is hardly used anywhere else in the world, and if you have been to China you will realize the quality of “English teachers” there! It just doesn't make any sense to compare China's education system with the western world. The former is lagging behind by some decades, and is going no where...


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