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English education still a priority

Updated: 2013-11-05 07:23
By Berlin Fang ( China Daily)

English education still a priorityThere has been much discussion recently about reducing the weight of English in China's high-stake tests such as the national college entrance examination. It is argued by some applauding the recent change to reduce the importance of English in tests that it will lead students to focus more on learning Chinese. The TV program Writing in Chinese has exposed the problem that students and the general public cannot write in Chinese as they used to do.

Some blame the design of the curriculum for giving English an equal or greater amount of emphasis, which might have contributed to the failure in teaching Chinese. But this is probably not a fair accusation since children in English speaking countries cannot spell either, largely due to the spell check and auto correct functions of word processing applications.

English education still a priority

Students in Wuhan, Hubei province, take a mock English test before the college entrance exam, June 3, 2013. [Photo / CFP]

I doubt that studying English per se hurts the study of Chinese. In fact, high achievers in English or another foreign language are more likely to be high achievers in Chinese. It has been proved many times in recent Chinese history that those capable of using a foreign language are also masters in their mother tongue. Qian Zhongshu, Lu Xun and Lin Yutang are just a few examples.

Another trend of thought for curriculum reform is related to the perception of "worth". It is true that English is one of the subjects that students do spend too much time on, with pitiful results. This makes some doubt if it is worth giving it priority. But this is not a sound argument either as students still need to study things that matter more to their future in spite of challenges learning English presents to them.

Improvements in Chinese language education should not be achieved by sacrificing another important subject. There should be a robust foreign language education program, as a foreign language improves a student's future job prospects. Bashing English education as a waste of time or using it as a scapegoat for failures in Chinese education are both harmful tendencies.

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