What does removing mid year exams mean for our children?

MOE announced yesterday that mid-year exams for all primary and secondary school levels will be removed by 2023, and follows previous removal of all exams in P1 and P2, as well as removal of mid year exams for P3 and P5.

We are big advocates of having students find meaning in Chinese beyond exams. However, from experience, we noticed that prior removal of the P1 and P2 exams has led to more students entering P3 with a weaker Chinese foundation; we highlight the risk of complacency below and outline tips on what we parents can do to help our children.

Finding Meaning Beyond Exams

A common opinion is “learning Chinese is just for exams.”

This is partially due to demographics. In 2000, a mere 1 in 3 children spoke mainly English at home; fast forward 20 years, nearly 4 in 5 children speak English most frequently. In primary school, most students use Chinese only during Mother Tongue classes, and switch back to English immediately after. If young children use Chinese predominantly or solely in an academic setting, is it surprising that they think Chinese is just for exams?

As parents, we naturally want the best for our children, and most of us have probably tried to introduce more “engaging” ways of learning Chinese, from reading Chinese stories to fun learning activities.

But if you are reading this post, I’m assuming that those initiatives had mixed outcomes. This is because languages are built on vocabulary and grammar foundations, and for primary school students, many “fun activities” are only fun if a student is able to comfortably understand the material.

So what does this have to do with removing exams?

The Hidden Side Effects Of Removing Exams

Since 2019, P1 and P2 students have had exams removed in a bid to reduce academic pressure, while still keeping the PSLE exams for P6.

A less-talked about effect is the change in learning attitudes: post the change, we noticed more students and parents becoming significantly more complacent with regards to revision or doing their assignments. Indeed, a common opinion we got from many parents was “no exams anyway, why worry so much”.

冰冻三尺非一日之寒

Languages are not like Math or Science where once you understand a concept, you can go from zero to hero in a short span of time.

Languages require regular practise to build vocabulary and grammatical building blocks, and the stronger your foundation, the easier it is to either enjoy the language through books and cartoons, and eventually ace harder academic tasks like composition on comprehension.

Conversely, over the last two years, we’ve noticed more P3 students with weaker foundations and laid-back learning attitudes vis-à-vis Chinese. In addition, many teachers choose P3 as the year to “shock” students with harder questions, which can cause students to lose confidence and hate Chinese.

What Can I Do As A Parent?

Complacency is the enemy.

As busy parents, it’s easy to think that since there are no more mid year exams, it’s okay to put off revising Chinese, and just wait until it’s closer to SA2. That’s what I used to do all the time as a child, and is also why I sucked at Chinese and hated it my entire childhood. The key to doing well in Chinese is regular revision.

We previously talked about how to help your child revise vocabulary, and the concept of the Forgetting Curve: when anyone learns something, he or she forgets half of it within a day, and almost all of it by next week. And the more times we revise the word, the longer we remember it.

Let’s look at the typical schedule of a busy parent. We help our children prepare for their spelling or 听写 the night before the test. One week later, we repeat the cycle for the next chapter.

But how often do we go back to previous chapters to revise older words? Typically very rarely, unless there is an exam looming. That’s why with the the removal of mid year exams it’s even more important for parents to be extra vigilant, and continue to schedule regular revision with their children.

How To Revise?

We understand that it’s not easy for parents to know what to revise, especially since getting our children to willingly revise Chinese isn’t the easiest of tasks.

That’s why over the last year, we built a Chinese equivalent of Koobits for our students, and we found most students who practised just 10 mins a day saw tremendous improvement in vocab, language skills and language confidence.

In the portal, you can do the following:

  • Revise a personalised vocabulary list that targets your child’s weak areas
  • Pet Battle, where your child takes on the role of an aspiring pet collector (think Pokémon). Capture and train pets by answering Chinese assessment book questions correctly
  • Watch weekly video lessons (P1-P4) and fun animated stories
  • Work on Hanyu Pinyin through topical quizzes

And to thank your loyal blog-readers, we are happy to provide you with a free account with selected features. Simply sign up for a free account here, and begin revising.

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