Academic journal article Babel

International Curriculum for Chinese Language Education

Academic journal article Babel

International Curriculum for Chinese Language Education

Article excerpt

The International Curriculum for Chinese Language Education (ICCLE) represents a significant initiative by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) to organise and describe objectives and content for a standardised Chinese language curriculum around the world. It aims to provide a reference curriculum for planning, a framework for assessing language competence, and a basis for resource development to cater for a variety of Chinese language learners, especially students at primary and high schools (p. ii). In this way it is a welcome addition to the international movement to promote and support Chinese second language education around the world. It claims to be based on thorough scientific research in both past experiences and current practice in foreign and second language education globally, and to have considerably reduced the difficulties of learning Chinese by adjusting objectives and skills to suit more novice learners (pp. i-ii). The ICCLE is presented in Chinese with an English translation included in the one document. The review provided here is based upon the English version. The ICCLE describes the goal of Chinese language education to be the mastery of Linguistic Competencies. Linguistic Competencies is composed of four components: Linguistic Knowledge (phonology, vocabulary, grammar etc), Linguistic Skills (macroskills), Strategies, and Cultural Awareness. The first two of these components, Linguistic Knowledge and Linguistic Skills, are considered the basis of Linguistic Competencies; the latter two components, Strategies and Cultural Awareness, are provided 'mainly for the benefit of language teachers' (p. iv).

* The Linguistic Knowledge framework describes content in six strands: Phonology, Characters and words, Grammar, Function, Theme and Discourse.

* Linguistic Skills are presented as a general statement of performance followed by macroskill-specific statements for listening, speaking, reading and writing respectively.

* The Cultural Awareness component is divided into four strands: Cultural Knowledge, Cultural Understandings, Cross-cultural Awareness, and Global Awareness.

* The Strategies component includes five strands: Affective, Learning, Communication, Resource, and Interdisciplinary Strategies.

The content of each component of Linguistic Competencies is described across each of the five stages and further elaborated in some detail through appendices which include a set of themes and topics, sample elaborations of topic content for both language and culture teaching, sample activities, and recommended grammar, character and word lists. No description or recommendation of time on task required to complete each stage is provided.

A number of issues arise in considering the application of the ICCLE in school-based Chinese programs in Australia. These include issues relating to the conceptualisation of language and culture in the framework, and issues relating to contemporary understandings of language learning and the place of the learner in such a generic curriculum framework.

An initial concern with this first edition of the ICCLE curriculum document is the manner in which the conceptualisation of language and culture in a second or foreign language learning context is represented. The document focuses primarily on presenting language as a code reinforced by the arrangement of grammatical items in Appendix 5 (which describes grammar usage by stage), in Appendix 7 (which provides a list of 800 characters) and in Appendix 8 (which lists 1500 words, both ordered by frequency of use in first language contexts). Curriculum content which organises linguistic content through a sequence of stages based on the criterion of frequency of use in and for China excludes the learner's perspective and needs. It is linguistically and culturally sinocentric. Attempts to predetermine the sequence of grammar, character and vocabulary introduction lead to unnatural constructions of textual, cultural and linguistic material, and do little to promote dynamic exploration by teacher and class of language in context. …

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