Keeping Chinese at the Heart of Secondary
Chinese language and culture is an essential part of the curriculum at Yew Chung International School of Beijing. In ECE and Primary, lessons are co-taught in Chinese and English, meaning that students are immersed in a bilingual and bicultural environment. In Secondary, lessons are mostly taught in English to prepare students for their IGCSE and IBDP exams, however Chinese language and culture still play a central role. We speak to Ms Jessica Sun, Secondary Chinese Coordinator, about the Chinese programme in Secondary.
Please explain our Chinese programme in Secondary.
Daily Chinese language lessons are a compulsory part of the Secondary timetable from Year 6 to Year 11. Students are grouped according to ability, as they range from native Chinese speakers to those starting the language for the first time. Unless you join YCIS Beijing just before IGCSE year, all students take a Chinese language paper for IGCSE. Many students – this year more than half – go on to take the bilingual IB diploma.
On Fridays, Chinese classes are focused on Chinese studies and students learn about other aspects of Chinese history and culture. However, this happens during language lessons too. For example, we will follow a Chinese article that discusses contemporary cultural topics.
How do we encourage students to engage with Chinese culture?
Throughout the year, we learn about and celebrate Chinese festivals. Recently, we celebrated Mid-Autumn festival with a range of activities and assemblies. For Chinese New Year we engage in whole school celebrations.
Also during the year, students go on cultural field trips to local temples, museums and historic sites. There are also CCAs where students can explore traditional Chinese activities such as cross stitching.
At the beginning of each year, students throughout Secondary go on the Experiencing China trips. Over the course of 3-5 days, students travel to exciting and significant locations in China and hike, take part in activities, engage with local people and learn about Chinese history.
How do we engage students with the local community?
Sometimes we set up interactions with local people for our CAL (Chinese Additional Language) students, by visiting the park and getting them to ask locals questions. We also invite people into the school to give talks. Later in November, an expert from the Peking Opera will be coming in to lead a workshop with students. We are also inviting a magazine editor to come in and lead a writing workshop for students. There are many opportunities for our students to meet local Chinese people.
Can you recommend any apps or resources for Secondary students learning Chinese?
Yes. Slow Chinese or Mansu Zhongwen is a podcast for Chinese learners where contemporary cultural topics are read in slow, clear Chinese that you can follow along.
There’s an app called Art of Chinese Characters which helps you remember Chinese characters in a very visual way.