By Cai Haoxiang
MORE than 800 local Chinese language teachers who are diploma holders will be able to study part-time for a bachelor's degree offered jointly by the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language and SIM University (UniSIM).
This collaboration is one of four agreements which will be signed today when the centre is officially opened by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.
The new degree programme is one of a growing number of opportunities provided by the centre and its partners to help local Chinese language teachers upgrade. It will take between four and six years to complete the degree. The programme will be conducted by lecturers from the centre and UniSIM.
The new Bachelor of Chinese Education (Honours) programme is slated to start in July next year.
Its total fee is estimated to be similar to that of UniSIM's current Chinese language and literature programme, which costs $24,000. But after government subsidies, Singaporeans pay just $14,400.
UniSIM's current four-year programme is popular with Chinese language teachers. They make up nearly 60 per cent of the total enrolment of 280.
While the current programme is for those who want to improve their knowledge of Chinese language and literature, the new programme is targeted at and relevant to Chinese language teachers, said UniSIM president Cheong Hee Kiat.
This is because it includes courses on research, curriculum development, assessment and strategies for teaching Chinese, he said.
Madam Chris Lau, 40, is currently in the second year of her degree in Chinese language and literature at UniSIM. Commenting on the new degree programme, the Chinese language teacher at Zhangde Primary School said: 'Teachers will be interested if they have the time and the degree is well-recognised, since this caters to their careers and can result in a higher salary scale.'
The other agreements that the centre will sign today are with the Media Development Authority (MDA), the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and NTUC's Seed Institute.
The MDA and the centre will explore ways to use information and communication technology in the teaching and learning of the Chinese language.
The centre and HKU will jointly offer a part-time master's degree in curriculum design in teaching Chinese as a second language. This is aimed at senior educators. Eligible teachers can also go on a study tour to HKU.
The centre will also collaborate with early childhood educator Seed Institute to train the 4,000 Chinese language preschool teachers here.
The centre was set up by the Ministry of Education in February to train existing Chinese language teachers. It has trained 1,000 of them since it began running programmes in June. It is on track to meet its target of training all 4,200 Chinese language teachers within five years, the centre's executive director Chin Chee Kuen said.
The centre's official opening will be held in conjunction with the first international conference here on teaching Chinese as a second language.
The conference will run at the National University of Singapore till Thursday and is expected to draw over 400 educators and researchers from around the world.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.