University of Adelaide

Project Description

Attitudes and Motivations Towards Chinese Language in Singapore

Project Abstract

Singapore, with about 78% of its population being ethnically Chinese, is attaching more importance to the Chinese Language education than ever before. Since the 1980s, due to the dominant use of English in Singapore society and greater exposure to English in the education system, among other factors, there has been a significant and gradual shift from a predominant use of Chinese to that of English in the Chinese community. It is therefore understandable that along with this major change in language use, the students� attitudes towards the Chinese Language have been increasingly reported to be negative; the students� Chinese Language proficiency is perceived to have fallen, and it has been widely reported in the press that student motivation for studying the Chinese Language has become problematic, especially in the early years of education. This give rise to increasing concerns from the Chinese community, especially Chinese teachers and educators, about a �Chinese Language and cultural crisis�. As a Chinese Language teacher in Singapore, I share this concern. On the other hand, statistics also reveal an increasing number of Chinese students who are taking Higher Chinese (Chinese Language at first language level) at the primary, secondary and GCE �A� levels. It has also been reported that the number of �A� level students who indicated their interest in pursuing tertiary education in Chinese Language has increased. Thus, in my research, I am interested in looking at Primary Six students� (11-13 year old) attitudes towards Chinese, and its implications towards the Chinese Language education in Singapore, particularly at the primary level, which is the foundation years in language acquisition.

Proposed research questions:
1. What are the attitudes of Primary Six students towards Chinese Language education?
2. What are their domains of usage of Mandarin Chinese?
3. What are the actual and perceived competence/ proficiency levels of the students in the Chinese Language?
4. How do these students acquire Chinese Language?
5. What is the relationship, if any, between attitudes towards the Chinese Language, the motivational level in Chinese Language acquisition and the actual performance in the Chinese Language?

Research methodologies:
The research will be done based on a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) primary school in Singapore. A SAP school, which is usually founded by a Chinese clan or association, offers both English and Chinese Languages to students at a first language level during the first four years (known as the foundation stage) of primary education. At the end of Primary Four, students and parents are given the option of enrolling in Higher Chinese or Chinese (at the second language level), based on their abilities and preferences. The respondents will consist of four classes of students (individual class of 40 students, an estimated total of 160 students), two classes of students taking Higher Chinese and two classes taking Chinese at second language level. There will be two sets of questionnaires � one for students studying Higher Chinese and another for students studying Chinese as second language. The questionnaires will be available to the students in two languages � English and Chinese, and they will be given the freedom to choose whichever they want or are comfortable with. The survey will be conducted online, with the Chinese teacher of the class administrating the questionnaires. The questions in the questionnaires deal with aspects relating to their choice in language stream, their domains of usage of Mandarin Chinese, their attitudes towards Chinese Language, the acquisition process of the Chinese Language and their perceived level of proficiency in the language. At the same time, a short memoir on the feelings towards Chinese Language, and information on their actual level of proficiency (examination scores) will be collected for further analysis.

Surveys released for this project:
Attitudes and Motivations Towards the Learning of 82
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