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RESPONSE TO THE HANBAN INTERNATIONAL CURRICULUM FOR CHINESE LANGUAGE EDUCATION (ICCLE) Philip Wilson

My association with Chinese language commenced in 1978 at the University of Adelaide and continued, as an educator from 1982 to the present. I have been a classroom teacher, a curriculum writer and assessment designer work for over twenty-five years. I have observed that learning Chinese language and culture is intricately bound up with the potentiality inherent in the learners developing identity. So, learning Chinese is not merely an act of mastering discrete content: it is about who the learners are becoming, therefore their role needs to be explicit in any curriculum framework. It is through this filter that I frame my comments about the ICCLE. Given the wealth of curriculum development and language learning research in Australia, it was surprising to see little of this reflected in list of participants and panels. Furthermore, it is disturbing to see that, when reduced to its fundamental components, the ICCLE preserves the longstanding approach within China of atomising language and culture to lists and then quantifying what a learner must master. This conceives learning Chinese as only about linguistic content, as ordered by Chinese frequency of use, separated from culture. The content mastery paradigm negates learner needs and interests, and reduces learning to the degree of mastery proximal to the Chinese(-ness) model. ICCLE Principles of organisation In the Objectives and Content and the CLT Subjects, Objectives and Sample Arrangements, the driving force in the curriculum is progression through stages of content predicated on frequency of use in China and proximity to native speaker model. These do not incorporate the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the learners. In this sense, the material assumes that Chinese content exists as an object of study for mastery rather than a subject for investigation where meaning and use are discussed and negotiated in the classroom between students, and between teachers and students. The Principles that are expounded make claims to the international field but need to show how they have been derived from this body of work. The principles make global claims for relevance to all learners and teachers without differentiation by age, context, compulsion and motivation. Thus it would seem that the requirements of adults are on a par with early childhood learners, when in fact the approaches needed are very different. The Contents section cites the ultimate goal of comprehensive mastery of linguistic competencies (knowledge, skills, cultural awareness and strategies), whereas such mastery, however defined, will look vastly different for learners of different ages and backgrounds The linguistic achievement goals of the ICCLE are described as being in accordance with the Chinese Language Proficiency Scales for Speakers of Other Languages. From a school perspective in Australia, a more fundamental consideration than proficiency (however this is constructed) is

RESPONSE TO THE HANBAN INTERNATIONAL CURRICULUM FOR CHINESE LANGUAGE EDUCATION (ICCLE) Philip Wilson

a pedagogical approach that deals with the meta-cognition and meta-learning required to engage the learners interest in foreign language learning

to provide the learning skills for them to learn with a high degree of autonomy, where replication of models is not the main purpose, but rather it is the learners capacity to mobilise their own linguistic and cultural perspectives and resources to access and use Chinese on their own terms for their own purposes.

This would serve to prepare a rich and dynamic environment of learning leading to a take-off stage in late adolescence- early adulthood when the learners could choose to develop proficiencies. In this sense also, proficiency is to be distinguished from fluency. Two languages-two cultures The learners (and teachers) for whom this is intended are largely not in China and therefore the cultural context in which they are actually engaging with Chinese must be provided for in any theory of curriculum. In other words, there will be at least two cultures present in the classroom. This intercultural dynamic needs to find expression in an articulation of curriculum content alongside pedagogy, methods and assessment which are not dealt with in the ICCLE framework; it really only describes content as a compendium of linguistic and cultural knowledge that the Hanban presents as the sum of content and the map for linear progression towards mastery by foreign language learners. It is this point however that I begin to have concerns, as knowledgetransmission is clearly the basis of the proposed model. This sits in contradistinction to the move in Australia towards (language) curriculum that is learner-centred and employs investigative and dynamic approaches. Furthermore, both the linguistic and cultural selection is exclusive of the second language learner and is sinocentric in its construction. Curriculum Content The diagrammatic representation of the Structure of ICCLE places language competence at the centre of language learning divorced from the learner. All activities are teacher-directed and rooted in the objective of memorisation and repetition so cognition is a static construct, irrespective of age and learning experience. To this extent the content limits the interactivity and creativity of the learners and the teachers. This presents a problem for curriculum design because at school level (at least), non- native learners arrive with a capacity for managing complex thinking and value systems. In short, the proposed curriculum model is highly linear and assumes non-natives can only start with simple language and cultural content mirrored by a requirement for simple pedagogy. The overwhelming impression of the content is one of disconnected and seemingly random offerings. Indeed, all of the above is largely irrelevant in that the conceptual heart of the entire document is to be found in Appendix 5, which describes grammar usage by stage; Appendix 7,

RESPONSE TO THE HANBAN INTERNATIONAL CURRICULUM FOR CHINESE LANGUAGE EDUCATION (ICCLE) Philip Wilson

which lists 800 characters; and Appendix 8, which lists 1500 words. A major difficulty arising from this is that because the characters and vocabulary have been predetermined, unnatural constructions of textual, cultural and linguistic material arise from the characters and vocabulary, proscribing dynamic exploration by teacher and class together. The material would benefit from a more careful reformulation and integration that uses investigation of Chinese language and culture as a means to learning, as follows here:e.g.
Stage Primary/Secondary/Adult Key metalearning Comment Who the learners are is fundamental to orientation, motivation and rate of progress How the learners will learn & what concepts are needed to advance learning authentic texts are imbued with TL culture and values (Textbooks are a useful start- point but reflect little about actual life) Authentic texts Concepts for learning Language & Culture Where are the starting points and how do they connect to the longer term conceptualisation of language ? InterCultural learning How does access to language broaden the identity of the learner to access and integrate Chinese into their own identity?

The above chart does not include grammar, characters or vocabulary: these are elements which can be accessed as needed, and from very early on by the learner autonomously. A grammar list is largely useful as a reference guide. It could be redesigned to exemplify usage in the following categories but not by Stage as this would restrict teacher and learner potential e.g. Nouns Adjectives Adverbs (scope, degree, Time, Place) Verbs Numeracy questions Conjunctions Prepositions Compound sentences

The learning environment would thus contain many resources (online & print) that support learner access to information and autonomy, focused on cognitive and affective processes and actions in a series of supported (resources, scaffolding) learning interactions. Thus, a rather different construction of curriculum is needed, as suggested below:

RESPONSE TO THE HANBAN INTERNATIONAL CURRICULUM FOR CHINESE LANGUAGE EDUCATION (ICCLE) Philip Wilson

An overview to reconceptualise the arrangement of structural elements ADULT/ADOLESCENT/CHILD (i.e. 3 versions)


Organising Strands Learner The Learners social contexts The Learner and the World Authentic text types: as inputs Written Visual Spoken Intercultural inquiry focus: How/why: thinking/feeling Assessment focus Performance standards ORAL WRITING Initiate Novice STAGES Mid-term Senior Exit

particular topics as relevant to the age related interest and motivation

Text types that stimulate learner engagement and challenge linguistic & cultural inquiry and skill

Questioning that promotes dialogue & reflection about growth in learning Rubrics to promote valid assessment practices

Descriptions of defined levels of qualitative achievement - task specific examples desirable to show the entire process and product

In conclusion, the curriculum content of the ICCLE organises the learners progress through a sequence based on the criterion of frequency of use in and for China. This has the effect of excluding the learners perspective at the commencement of learning. It is culturally sinocentric. Curriculum content is more than the language and cultural facts about a language; it must also include the dynamic between learners and teachers in varying contexts at varying stages of development and must include the language and culture of the learner. Fundamentally, the language learning process needs to consider both the learner and the language as an interactive duality. The language (and cultural) content alone cannot be sliced up into notional stages of complexity as this is not consistent with human growth and intellectual development.