An increasing number of international schools in Singapore are offering classes in Mandarin and boosting their expertise in the subject as parents increasingly ask for their children to be taught the language.
A check by the Straits Times with 20 international schools found more than half offer the subject, the newspaper reported Thursday.
At least five of the schools has made it compulsory for their preschoolers and primary school children to take the language. Older students usually have the option of studying other languages, and at some schools that offer a choice of foreign languages at lower levels, at least 80 percent of the children choose Chinese.
At Stamford American International School, four out of five pupils aged two to 13 take Mandarin for an hour every day. Its Chinese department is now the biggest in the school.
There as also an obvious change in the attitude of the parents toward learning Chinese.
"Expatriate parents used to say 'No, I don't want my child to learn Chinese, what would they want Chinese for?' A few years ago, they started saying 'Please let my child learn Chinese. Mandarin is the future,'" said Elaine Goddard-Tame, head of One World International School.
The international schools are also beefing up their expertise in the subject.
The Singapore American School created a new position of director of Chinese language and hired curriculum specialist Susan Zhang to improve its Chinese program.
The school started the pre-school and primary-level Chinese program with just three teachers, but it now has ten.
EtonHouse International will start a bilingual primary-level program in September where both English and Chinese teachers will be in the classroom at the same time. At its branch in East Coast, 90 percent of the 500 students chose Chinese, said its founder Ng Gim Choo.
The Chinese language has been ever more popular, especially with celebrities like international investor Jim Rogers moving to Singapore to go for bilingual education for their children.
Lidijia Milohanovic, a 34-year-old housewife from Serbia, said she has downloaded a Chinese program on-line and is learning the pronunciation with her eight-year-old daughter Ana.
"We learn two words every day and I'm very proud of Ana when she scores full marks for Chinese spelling," she said.
(Xinhua News Agency February 3, 2011)