In a surprising and rather sudden move, China’s plans for children in grades one and two to learn the English language is about to change; instead of two lessons a week, there will be no English language lessons for children. These plans could have a detrimental effect on the children’s ability to learn English in their third year of school and thereafter.
On the other hand, there are those whom suggest that children learning English in their first two years of school are being pushed a little too hard and that they are feeling the pressure from such a young age to have a good standard of English.
Reaction to the Planned Education Reforms
The announcement has had a divided reaction; some are all for the reforms whereas, others are completely against the move and I suppose they’ll be those who are undecided as they are unsure of the effects it could have on their children in the future.
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.
There are also those who believe that children in China should learn the English language from an early age due to the importance of the language; not just for examination purposes, but for business purposes. Being able to speak English when it comes to business is a very important aspect, as companies around the world have and/or are ensuring that their staff can speak English, in order to build and maintain a close working relationship.
China’s plan to cut the hours that children learn English could not only affect them as individuals, but it’s possible that this could have a significant knock-on effect; if the most powerful economy in the world are putting less emphasis on learning the English language, will this mean that learning the English language will become less important? Perhaps so, although this would take years to occur, but before long it could be that people are required to learn Chinese on a global scale and not English.
Another argument against the proposed education reforms in China, put across by Xiong Bingqi, the vice director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute stated “the reform, even if indeed carried out, would be unlikely to ease the burden for students and their parents.” Xiong went onto say that “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”.
Xiong suggested that there should be a reform in terms of how students are assessed in compliance with the current curriculum, which only assesses students through exams and no other method e.g. coursework, practical work and so on. Xiong further went onto suggest that higher education institutions should have the flexibility of having their own entrance exams and scoring system.
Many institutions in the UK use this method, as each institution requires a different level of education or exam pass mark i.e. Oxford University students must be among the brightest academics in the country in order to either work or study there. English Language schools that teach overseas students who are looking to be accepted into either a higher education institution and/or looking to further their proficiency in the English language in order to stand a better chance of achieving more in their chosen career.
The future will undoubtedly indicate whether or not the reforms will have a negative or positive effect on the level of English proficiency.
China’s planned education reforms could have a detrimental effect on the future level of English for adults living in China. Business English could suffer as a consequence in terms of level of importance on a global scale.
License: Image author owned
License: Image author owned
Sarah, the author of this article has worked in an English School in Manchester for several years and teaches overseas students from a variety of backgrounds.