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EtonHouse offers Mandarin-only classes


PRE-SCHOOLS teaching in Mandarin and Chinese are all the rage. EtonHouse, which runs high-end pre-schools, is taking it further.

In the pre-school it is opening on the grounds of Hwa Chong
Institution in July, children in pre-nursery and nursery classes will be
taught entirely in Mandarin, from 18 months till age four, when they
enter the first year of kindergarten.

Based on the belief that language learning should be spontaneous,
Mandarin will be taught in a lively way through Chinese cultural
experiences, literature, art, music, dance and drama.

The only other kindergarten that teaches pre-nursery and nursery
classes entirely in Mandarin is Nanyang Kindergarten, which is also in
Bukit Timah. It is oversubscribed every year.

Mrs Ng Gim Choo, managing director of EtonHouse International
Education Group, said there has been growing demand for pre-school
education that offers a strong foundation in Chinese, underscoring the
increasing value Singapore society places on the language.

This demand is also seen among non-Chinese speaking families, she added.

"Our aim is for our children to develop a deep appreciation of the
language and provide a bilingual and bicultural foundation for life.
This is possible only when children enjoy learning Chinese and
appreciate and embrace Chinese culture."

Asked about the Mandarin-only immersion, EtonHouse curriculum
specialist Alice Tay said: "The immersion model in the early years is
based on the fact that the more time spent learning this second language
in the critical early years, the better."

The subsequent introduction of another language, in this case
English, in the kindergarten years helps children to acquire proficiency
in both languages, she said.

"The objective of our new set-up is to create an environment where
children establish warm and constructive relationships with
Mandarin-speaking adults from an early age. The language is not
'taught', but naturally acquired through meaningful experiences," she

An EtonHouse spokesman said the new school will have native
Chinese-language teachers from China with qualifications in early
childhood education.

Madam Kelsey Tan, 29, an accountant, is all for the Mandarin-only
immersion as she feels that speaking Mandarin will give her son an

She said: "Both my husband and I don't speak the language well, but
we really want our son to learn Mandarin because with the growth of
China, it will be an asset to know Mandarin.

"And since he will be exposed to only English at home, we thought it
will be good if he is exposed to a lot more Mandarin in school."

The fees for the three-hour sessions will be $800 per month for
pre-nursery and nursery 1 class, and $750 per month for Nursery 2, K1
and K2. The pre-school can take in up to 150 children.


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