By guest contributor Ou Hai-Jie (18S03B)
Additional reporting by Soh Ying Qi (18A01C)
Photos courtesy of Ou Hai-Jie
This article is the sixth part in Raffles Press’ series, Please Mind the Platform Gap: The Road Less Taken, about non-traditional A-level subjects offered in RI. For our previous feature on H2 Music, please click here.
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of RI’s academic management and should not be used as a substitute for formal academic counselling.
For the vast majority of Chinese Rafflesians, the Higher Chinese O-levels mark the last time we will ever be made to learn the language in a school setting. Many students, upon receiving their pass grades, never touch the subject again. But what about those for whom Chinese is more than just a subject, who are genuinely passionate about the language and culture?
Fear not, for H2 Chinese Language and Literature (CLL) is here! Averaging less than 10 students per cohort (Batch ‘17 has 9 candidates, Batch ‘18 has just 2), CLL ranks among the smallest of the non-traditional subjects that RI offers. While such tiny numbers have obvious drawbacks (you’ll never get away with not doing your tutorials!), the small class size does afford major advantages: tutors are able to give each student much more attention, in the form of more feedback on completed work and more time to answer individual questions. With only 2 students in the class of 2018, tutorials can sometimes feel more like conversations than formal lessons.
But how does one qualify to take CLL in JC? While there are no official prerequisites or placement tests like there are for other non-traditional subjects, this writer personally feels that one should attain at least a B3 in the Higher Chinese O-levels to do well in CLL. After all, the study of literature in any language requires linguistic proficiency, but if you have a passion for Chinese, do consider giving CLL a try!
The nuts and bolts of the subject may seem mystifying at first sight, but CLL is really anything but. Year 5s are taught by Mr Lee Eng Keat, a graduate of a Taiwanese university, and tutorials cover a myriad of Chinese literary forms. Among them are 古文 (classical prose), 韵文 (poetry), 现代小说 (contemporary prose) and 现代戏剧 (contemporary plays). Lessons typically include essay-writing, comprehension exercises or the learning of new passages that will be tested—tutors will go through texts in class and explain their meaning and implications, sometimes bringing in other poems or stories from other experts in the field of Chinese literature. You might be happy to hear that homework is minimal; however, it is advisable to read ahead before the tutor teaches so that you can understand what the tutor is talking about in class.
Study strategies may differ among students, but taking notes about important things your tutor says in class and compiling your own study guides, preferably organised into categories like 写作手法 (writing techniques), 情节 (plot), 人物 (characters), 叙述视角 (narrative perspectives), 题旨 (theme) and 背景 (background and context), will deeply enhance your learning. Of course, it is always good to read through past-year papers to see what kinds of questions are tested for different topics, and reading Chinese newspapers will also go a long way in improving your language ability.
CLL is assessed in three separate papers. Paper 1 comprises an essay section (1 hour 15 minutes, 35 marks) and a comprehension section (1 hour, 35 marks) that includes 综合填空 (cloze passage). Paper 2 is a 1-hour comprehension e-exam worth 30 marks, a style of assessment that may be new to some students. In this paper, the comprehension passage is uploaded online and candidates type their answers out. While this mode of response may be time-consuming, rest assured that students will have multiple opportunities to practise their typing skills in class prior to the exam. Lastly, Paper 3 (Literature) consists of four sections, each containing three questions, wherein the candidate must choose one from each section to answer. For those hungering for a greater challenge, the NUS-MOE Humanities and Social Sciences (HSSR) H3 programme offers candidates the opportunity to write their own 4500- to 6000-word extended essay on a topic proposed by the NUS lecturers.
Students can look forward to attending events organised by other schools; however, there is no annual CLL event that takes place across all JCs. While RI is not a centre for the MOE Chinese Language Elective Programme and hence does not offer the accompanying scholarship, CLL students can still consider using their educational background to further their studies in Chinese at undergraduate level—for example, by joining the NUS Department of Chinese Studies or the NTU Chinese Undergraduate Programme.
All in all, H2 CLL offers a unique educational experience—the chance to learn not only about a language and its written work, but also the history and culture surrounding it. In this way, CLL is truly a subject that enriches the mind, and this writer would like to encourage all those with a genuine passion for Chinese to consider furthering their interest by offering it at the A-levels.
For more information about the 2020 H2 CLL syllabus, visit the SEAB website at https://www.seab.gov.sg/docs/default-source/national-examinations/syllabus/alevel/2020syllabus/9572_y20_sy.pdf
(Cover image source: http://www.jituwang.com/tuku/201101/19667.html)