Mandarin Program: Abdul Rahman Kanoo School Diyar


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Please share a brief background of your innovation.

The Mandarin Program at Abdul Rahman Kanoo School Diyar (ARKS) was launched at the beginning of the academic year of 2022-2023, in line with the opening of the new school. ARKS is the first and only school in Bahrain to have Mandarin as a third language included in the curriculum. It was made possible due to the leadership’s foresight and understanding of the relationship the Kingdom has with China. The friendly cooperative relations between the two nations are based on shared or mutual, complementary commercial interests and Bahrain’s strategic geographical position, and from a policy standpoint, strong Bahrain-China links, inclusive of the China-Bahrain Relations in the Age of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). These were all factors considered when the leadership introduced the idea of being innovators and at the forefront to better support Bahrani students in the quest for more global opportunities.

This program is in its early stages and is set to introduce not only Mandarin but also introduce Chinese culture and engage students in cultural activities related to China. The program is also meant to focus on students’ pronunciation and speech, which is greatly important in learning a language such as Mandarin which is known to be the most tonal language. This means that speaking with the right tone is very important because tones convey different meanings.

As for the course content, it is currently designed for students from Reception to Year Five and includes different basic topics with daily used words with the introduction to Mandarin phonetics (Pinyin system). Topics include self-introduction, age, numbers, animals, colors, family members, classroom objects, etc. In each topic, students learn daily simple expressions using simple grammar. The goal of the program at this early stage is to make students enjoy learning a new language. It is the starting point to prepare them to dive into the language, and let it grow with them until their graduation from school. ARKS aims to prepare students for future demands, and this program definitely helps in achieving this goal.

How was it planned?

The program was planned by first interviewing different Chinese language teachers from China. Some teachers teach university students, and some teach kindergarten. Taking the opinion of those teachers was important before taking a step further into planning. We asked the teachers about the textbooks and other resources they believed were useful for children. They also shared their experience in teaching Mandarin with us. 

The second step was choosing the resources and study materials. This was a major step that took significant time and consideration. The program is meant for preschool and primary school students, and they are all starting at the same level; therefore, choosing materials and resources that are suitable for both preschool and primary school took a lot of time. The third step was building the scheme of work based on the materials we chose. This was later submitted to the Ministry of Education for approval to launch the course officially by the first semester in August 2022. Finally, with the approval of the Private Schools Education at MOE, ARKS Diyar commenced making term plans by placing all the topics we would teach in order to start building the lessons.

Did you face any challenges in implementation?

The biggest challenge we faced was the inability to provide the right quantity of textbooks we needed for the students, as we faced problems with publishers, which resulted in getting only a few copies that are being used as teachers’ resources – based on the Covid-19 supply chains. Another challenge was the sudden need to change plans. Since we currently don’t have a solid textbook to give the students, we decided to build our own content of learning materials, by choosing different topics that interest children and making the lessons as flexible as possible. 

What is challenging in this way of teaching is making the content suitable for all year groups – from Reception to Year 5 – and the need for changing teaching methods depending on the year level. This was once again done internally with the talent to drive the program – a Bahrain-based graduate who had received the MOE scholarship and had the vision, expertise, drive, and skill set to run the program.

A brief assessment of your results

We are proud to say we are noticing great results just by seeing the excitement in the eyes of students for the Mandarin lessons every time. Preschool students are able to sing songs in Mandarin and Primary School students walk around saying the words they learned during the lessons on a daily basis. This alone proves that the program resulted in happier students eager to learn Mandarin, and very curious to know more about China. External verification has come in the form of the delegates from the Confucius Institute – a branch part of UOB who test proficiency and were overwhelmed by the retention and uptake after only four weeks of learning. During the Admission process, parents were made aware of the inbuilt curriculum falling in line with ARKS’ core values of Internationalism and the uniqueness of the program.

In hindsight, what were the most valuable lessons learned? Could things have been done differently?

One of the most important lessons we have learned while implementing this program is that there is no need to stick to a certain textbook while teaching this new language to children. In the beginning, we thought that if we didn’t receive the textbooks we chose on time, it would be the end and the program would fail. However, this notion changed after planning our own lessons, and after seeing the results in students’ performance. Even if we follow a certain series of books in the future, it is very important to stay flexible and contextualize the content according to what students need, and most importantly, to what makes them stay excited and never lose interest in the subject.

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