At EtonHouse Zhong Hua Pre-School, we offer a unique curriculum featuring inquiry-based learning set in an environment immersed in Chinese culture and language, supported by native-speaking educators.
What is Immersion?
An immersion education programme refers to “making the second language the sole medium for teaching core subject content, instead of teaching the second language separately” (Fortune, 2012). From the perspective of Early Childhood education, we support children’s integrated learning experiences (which include Mathematical understanding, Science discovery, Artistic/language expressions, Cultural understanding, Social and emotional interactions, Physical development etc.) using only Mandarin as a medium of communication.
Research on early language immersion has demonstrated that children who are immersed in a second language from early age has shown not just significant language and literacy development, into elementary years they have also performed well (in some cases better than non-immersion students) in standardised tests of other subject areas, indicating benefits of cognitive development from immersion programmes. (Fortune, 2012)
In Singapore, 60% of Chinese families speak mainly English at home (MOE, 2011), which means Pre-schoolers from such families who attend a bilingual programme will grow up using Mandarin only 25% of their daily interactions. The usage of Mandarin reduces even further as they enter Primary school, when there is only about an hour each day of instructions given in Mandarin. Many parents feedback that their children face many challenges in school with regard to learning Mandarin, these include the lack of interests/motivation and their weak foundation of the language. Mandarin is certainly the most spoken language in the world and China is now the world’s largest economy. Understandably, an immersion experience provides children the opportunity to foster positive relationships with the Mandarin language and culture from an early age, which will potentially raise their global competitiveness as they continue to acquire the language in later years.
What is our philosophy?
EtonHouse aims to provide young children with a natural Mandarin language learning environment, where they learn through meaningful interactions with proficient language users. Our Curriculum is inspired by the beliefs of Reggio Emilia Pre-schools, which is, first and foremost, the image of the child as a competent thinker and communicator; and also a seeker and builder of relationships. Therefore, the learning environment is thoughtfully created to stimulate their inquiring minds, various materials are provided to support their many multiple languages besides verbal expressions (singing, dancing, clay, paints, natural materials etc.). We also place a strong focus on fostering constructive relationships, amongst all members of the school. The teachers at EtonHouse collaborate with the children on their learning journey through actively sharing their own language, culture and traditions. Such collaboration is evidently reflected in our Immersion Programme, where children establish warm relationships with the Mandarin-speaking teachers as they engage in rich learning experiences. Such values of relationship extend beyond the school to our families. We believe parents are the first educators of the children and strive to maintain an open dialogue with families, to work with the best interests of the children in mind.
What are the learning outcomes?
The EtonHouse Chinese Immersion curriculum is framed according to the following Early Learning Goals:
- The child in a social and cultural context : Understanding self and others (includes becoming aware and developing interests in the Chinese cultures and traditions)
- The child as a communicator (incorporating speech/language; multiple literacies and the symbolic languages – the visual and performing arts)
- The thinking child: Building understanding of the world (critical, creative and logical thinking, mathematical, scientific and technological understandings)
- The physical child : Building health, safety and physical understandings
- The child as an agent of change : Building environmental understandings
While we support each child in working towards these long-term goals, the Mandarin language is used as a medium of conversation. There is certainly more emphasis on the development of Mandarin literacy skills, however, we also support the child’s other aspects of development because we understand that children’s learning is integrated, they do not separate learning into distinct subject areas. Integrated learning experiences help them to make sense of their world by connecting what they already know to the new knowledge they encounter. (MOE, 2012). This is also consistent with our belief of holistic education.
How do we assess children’s progress?
Within the curriculum, there must be clear progression of long and medium term goals (centre / term based) as well as short term goals (based on observation of the individual child) with consideration given to the degree of support offered by time, space, materials and the social context (grouping of children). Adults play a key role in extending and enriching children’s understandings through ongoing interactions (e.g. questioning, problem posing, engaging a child’s awareness). All aspects of the curriculum are evaluated using documentary evidence of teaching and learning. Observations (of skills; dispositions; knowledge and behaviour) are recorded in the child’s portfolio as evidence of your child’s learning and development. Portfolios are available to the child (and family) at any time and form the basis of the parent-teacher discussions held twice annually.
How do we assess our Curriculum delivery?
Research shows that the key determinant of success in early childhood education is the quality of the teaching team. All our teachers hold the minimum of a Diploma in Pre-school Education – Teaching which is accredited by ECDA. Besides their qualifications and teaching experience, we strongly value educators who demonstrate reflective and innovative thinking in relation to curriculum design and development. Our Pedagogy team provides ongoing support in the form of classroom observations, curriculum dialogues and workshops, guiding educators as they plan and work in collaboration with children, their families and colleagues. In addition, the documentation of children’s learning provides the educators with a platform to continually assess their own teaching strategies, the effectiveness of the learning environment and the effectiveness of specific learning experiences.