Call to scrap English classes prompts debate

By Zhang Zhilong Source:Global Times Published: 2013-9-10 22:48:01

Wang Xuming, a former spokesman with the Ministry of Education, on Sunday posted comments on Sina Weibo calling for English classes for elementary school children to be canceled so the number of Chinese lessons could be increased.

Now the president of Language and Culture Press, Wang is "active" on Weibo, where he has over 1.8 million followers.

His posts have attracted significant attention given the fact that it was Teachers' Day on Tuesday.

Net users expressed varied opinions about whether to cancel English classes, but a scan of posts reveals that a majority agree that Chinese should be "saved," and extracurricular English classes should be abolished.

"These years, so many people are learning English but our Chinese language proficiency is degrading quickly," said Net user Qishanfengming, adding that English tests should be canceled first.

Another Net user, Sli-Panpan, opposed Wang's suggestion, saying that if English classes were canceled at primary schools, students would face more pressure when they are in junior and senior high school.

And some parents also send their children to extracurricular English classes, the Net users pointed out.

There is still no scientific consensus on whether it's better for students to learn English earlier or later, Shi Zhongying, a professor with the Faculty of Education at Beijing Normal University, told the Global Times.

"Besides, it's necessary to learn a foreign language, like English, in our globalized world," Shi added.

Shi dismissed links between Chinese and English proficiency, and said that during the basic education period, students now learn more about traditional Chinese culture than they had in the past.

An elementary school English teacher, surnamed Luo, from Ningbo of Zhejiang Province, was also skeptical in her commentary.

"I don't think it is realistic to cancel English classes," she told the Global Times, saying that it would mean the entire evaluation system would have to be overhauled.

Elementary school students usually take English lessons from Grade 3 to Grade 6. They attend three English classes every week, each lasting 40 minutes, said Luo.

Luo said that in Ningbo, most students begin to take English lessons from Grade 1.

Some parents pointed out that learning English isn't necessarily detrimental to learning Chinese.

"My son is very good in his Chinese lessons and his English is good, too," a father surnamed Sun in Beijing told the Global Times.

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