New English Curriculum for Chinese Primary Schools and
Junior/Senior Middle Schools
Experimental Version drafted by the Education Ministry of the PRC
Part 1: Introduction
With the advent of the information age and the global economy, English has become increasingly important. English is the dominant carrier of information and the most widely spoken language in the world. Many countries have made English a cornerstone of quality education when developing strategies for basic education.
Since China’s reform and opening, the scale of its English education has continually grown, attended by significant achievements in teaching and learning. However, English education in its current form is failing to meet the needs of contemporary social and economic development.
The current round of reforms to the English curriculum aim to end the following practices:
? Over-emphasizing the transmission and explanation of knowledge about grammar and vocabulary ? Neglecting to develop students’ ability to use language for real
In their place, the reforms aim to establish a curriculum that:
? Develops students’ comprehensive language competence
? Motivates students, is relevant to their life experiences and cognitive level
? Promotes task-based teaching methods
? Involves students in experiential, practical, participatory and cooperative learning
? Develops students’ positive attitudes, thinking skills, practical abilities, cultural awareness and autonomy through the language learning process
The new English curriculum strives to accomplish far more than just help students learn English. At one level learning English should involve helping students to:
? Develop a certain level of comprehensive language competence and the ability to use language for
? Master certain basic language knowledge
? Master listening, speaking, reading and writing skills
However, at another level the curriculum should also serve students’ all-round development, providing them with opportunities to:
? Strengthen their interest in studying English
? Grow in self-discipline, perseverance and self-confidence
? Improve their cooperative, investigative and thinking abilities
? Develop their memory, imagination and creativity
? Adopt good study habits and effective learning strategies
? Develop as autonomous and lifelong learners
? Build moral integrity and a healthy outlook on life
? Establish both national spirit and an awareness of and respect for cultural differences
? Broaden their horizons and enrich their life experience
? Take part in cultural life
? Develop as individuals
The curriculum promotes quality education (as opposed to exam-orientated education) and the
To promote quality education particular attention must be paid to:
? Valuing each student’s feelings
? Stimulating students’ interest in studying English
? Helping students gain a sense of achievement and self-confidence
The curriculum must go beyond developing students’ comprehensive language competence to include areas such as:
? Improving students’ ability to contribute to cultural and social life
? Developing students’ practical abilities
? Fostering students’ creativity
The curriculum objectives are holistic and flexible.
The fundamental aim of the new English curriculum is to develop students’ comprehensive language competence. This aim is broken down into five general objectives. These objectives are then divided into nine ability levels with descriptors provided for each level. The five general objectives are:
1. Language Skills
2. Language Knowledge
3. Attitudes to Learning
4. Learning Strategies
5. Cultural Awareness
This design allows students to progress systematically through each level whilst meeting the full range of the curriculum’s demands.
Students are put at the centre of the curriculum and individual differences are respected
Students’ must be at the heart of the new curriculum. For example, their developmental needs must be the central consideration when developing:
? Curriculum objectives
? The teaching and learning process
? The assessment process
? Teaching and learning resources
When implementing the curriculum each student must be allowed to develop individually under the guidance of the teacher:
The curriculum promotes activity-based methods, experiential and participatory learning
The curriculum promotes task-based learning whereby, under the guidance of the teacher, the students gain a sense of achievement by reaching the goals of the task. Task completion will involve the following types of learning:
? ‘Hands on’/practical
In order to improve their ability to use language for real communication, students should also be able to: ? Adjust their learning strategies and control their emotions
? Form positive attitudes towards learning
The curriculum recognizes the important role of formative assessment in promoting student’ development
The assessment system should combine formative with summative assessment. The purposes of assessment should be to:
? Promote students’ comprehensive language competence
? Encourage and motivate students
? Help students become more autonomous learners
? Benefit students’ healthy personal development
? Give teachers useful feedback from which to develop teaching and learning
? Inform the ongoing development and perfection of the English curriculum
Formative assessment should be an important part of the English teaching and learning process with a particular emphasis on:
? Encouraging students’ active participation in learning
? Improving students’ self-confidence
Summative assessment should focus on:
? Testing students’ integrated language skills
? Testing students’ ability to use language
The curriculum expands the range of learning resources and opportunities available
The curriculum should strive to use and develop resources whose content is:
? Close to the students’ lives
? Rich and varied
Active use should be made of:
? Audio visual material
? Print media
? The Internet
Students should be encouraged to take responsibility for finding, using and developing learning resources themselves.
The curriculum follows the international practice of dividing the general objectives into different ability levels. When designing these nine levels consideration was given to the following:
? The nature of language development
? The different needs of different age groups
? The needs of different ethnic groups and areas
? The economic imbalances that exist in China
The aim is to have designed a system that is holistic and flexible.
The correspondence between the level system and the grade system is shown in the following diagram:
Part 2: Introduction to The General Objectives
The fundamental aim of the new curriculum is to develop students’ comprehensive language competence. This comprehensive language competence is achieved through the five general objectives as shown in the following diagram:
Diagram 2: The General Objectives
A further diagram illustrates the more comprehensive nature of the new curriculum compared to the old
? Language skills and knowledge form the basis of comprehensive language competence
? The students’ attitudes to learning strongly influence their learning and development
? Successful learning strategies improve the effectiveness of students’ learning
? Cultural awareness ensures students use language appropriately
The overall descriptors for comprehensive language competence (i.e. a combination of all five general objectives) for Levels 1 to 9 are presented below:
Part 3: The General Objectives in Detail
Detailed descriptors for Levels 2 and 5 of each of the five general objectives are presented in the following tables. Please refer to the translation of the senior English curriculum (available from the VSO Programme Office) for Level 6 – 9 descriptors.
Part 4: Guidelines for Implementation
1.1 Lay the groundwork for students’ all-round and lifelong development
Teaching and learning should meet the diverse needs of all students, ensuring the healthy development of their mind and body. In particular the teacher should pay attention to the following:
? Encourage students to use English bravely, taking a lenient attitude towards mistakes they make during the learning process.
? Provide students with ample opportunities to collaborate with others and to become autonomous learners.
? Give students plenty of space for self-development.
? Encourage students to develop their language skills in an integrated way through experiential, practical, cooperative and inquiry-based learning.
? Create conditions that allow students to explore questions they are personally interested in and solve problems by themselves.
1.2 Create a relaxed, democratic and harmonious learning environment
Positive attitudes are an essential condition for effective learning. Negative attitudes can not only reduce the effectiveness of study but also adversely affect students’ long-term development. In particular, teachers should heed the following:
? Respect each individual student, actively encouraging everyone to try and safeguarding their self-esteem and enthusiasm.
? Integrate students’ English education with their emotional education. Develop cooperative spirit by organizing learning activities that let students work together, help each other and experience group recognition and achievement.
? Pay particular attention to introverted students or weak learners, trying to give them as many language practice opportunities as possible.
? Establish a friendly and democratic channel of communication between students and teacher, frequently reflecting on the learning process and results together, and offering mutual help and support.
1.3 Use task-based learning methods to promote students comprehensive language competence
Teachers should try to adopt task-based learning methods as much as possible. Teachers should creatively design learning activities that are relevant to the students’ real lives, according to the overall curriculum objectives and content. Teachers should engage students’ interest in the activity and organize them effectively so that they participate actively and complete the tasks, learning and using English through thinking, carrying out surveys, discussing, communicating and cooperating. Attention should be paid to the following points when designing tasks:
? Activities must have clear and achievable aims and objectives.
? Activities must be relevant to students’ life experiences and interests; the content and style should be as true to life as possible.
? Activities must benefit the development of students’ language knowledge, language skills and ability to use language for real communication.
? Activities should be of a cross-curricular nature, promoting the integrated development of students’ thinking and imagination, aesthetic and artistic sense, cooperative and creative spirit.
? Activities should make students gather, process and use information, using English to communicate with others in order to develop their ability to use English to solve real problems.
? Activities should not purely be limited to the classroom but also extend to out of school learning.
1.4. Provide increased guidance about learning strategies
Helping students to adopt good study habits and effective learning strategies is one of the important tasks of the new curriculum. Teachers should consciously give students guidance about learning strategies so that, through learning and using English, they are learning how to learn. To this end the teacher should observe the following:
? Give students chances to establish their own study targets and the means of fulfilling these. ? Help students to use inference, research and inquiry style methods to carry out their learning. ? Develop students’ practical abilities and creative thinking by designing inquiry based activities.
? Encourage students to use observation, discovery and induction to acquire language knowledge and grasp language functions.
? Help students to carry out self-assessment during the learning process and adjust their own learning objectives and strategies appropriately according to the results.
1.4 Develop students’ awareness of and ability in cross-cultural communication
Language and culture are closely related, language being the main transmitter and carrier of culture. Teachers should work hard to help students achieve the following during the English learning process: ? Understand foreign cultures, especially those of English speaking countries
? Use English appropriately
? Constantly broaden their cultural horizons
? Deepen their understanding of their own culture
? Develop an awareness of and ability in cross-cultural communication
1.5 Use modern teaching technology and expand learning opportunities
In order to increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning, teachers should make good use of modern technology, expand the range resources and opportunities through which students can learn, thereby modernizing learning ways. Conditions permitting, teachers should try to:
? Use audiovisual material and the Internet to enrich the learning content and form and improve outcomes.
? Use computer and multi-media software to explore new teaching and learning methods and promote more individualized study.
? Create conditions for students to study more independently through sensible use of a variety of learning resources, such as broadcasts, print media, libraries and the Internet.
1.6 Organize lively and active extracurricular activities to promote students’ English learning
Teachers should arrange a variety of extracurricular activities according to the students’ age and interests to help them expand their knowledge, broaden their horizons, strengthen their intellect and individuality and use their talents. The content and form of these carefully planned activities should be rich and varied. Suggestions include:
? Story telling
? English corner
? English wall displays
? Cclass discussions
The teacher should be good at leading these activities to maintain students’ interest and foster their creativity and initiative.
1.7 Continue to develop professionally
Teachers should aim to:
? Familiarize themselves with the principles, objectives, content, teaching and learning methods, psychological theories and language learning research findings of this curriculum
? Select and adjust English teaching and learning strategies according to their students’ psychological characteristics
? Develop their ability to organize and monitor activities
? Use a variety of teaching skills and methods flexibly
? Master the use of modern educational technology, using it increasingly in their own continuing study and real classroom practice
? Consciously deepen their knowledge of Chinese and foreign cultures
? Actively and creatively explore which teaching and learning methods best suit their students’ needs, local conditions and the objectives
? Continuously reflect on their own practice, endeavouring to become a creative and research driven teacher
1.8 Follow high frequency principles to ensure effective teaching and learning
In Grades 3-6 there should be a minimum of four teaching and learning periods per week, with shorter periods for the younger years. For Grades 5 and 6 classes should not exceed two periods in length. In order to ensure the effectiveness of teaching and learning, class sizes should not exceed 40 at primary level. Grades 7 –9 and senior school students should have a minimum of four lessons a week.
Assessment and evaluation is an important component of the new curriculum. Assessment should be carried out according to the requirements of the curriculum standards, focusing not only on the results but also the process of learning. The primary purposes of assessment are to:
? Let students continuously experience progress and success during the learning process
? Let students know their own progress and build confidence
? Promote all aspects of students’ comprehensive language competence
? Provide the teacher with feedback on the teaching and learning process
? Help the teacher reflect on their own teaching practice and adjust it accordingly
? Help the teacher continuously improve the quality of their teaching
? Provide the school with prompt feedback on the implementation of the curriculum
? Help improve educational management
? Inform the ongoing development and perfection of the new English curriculum
The assessment system should diversify both the subjects and forms of assessment. Assessment should focus on students’ comprehensive language competence, combining both formative assessment (concentrating on the study process) and summative assessment (concentrating on the learning outcomes).
Ensure that students are the subjects (not objects) of assessment
Students are at the centre of learning. The development of their comprehensive language competence should be the starting point for both teaching and learning and assessment.
? Assessment should help students know their own progress, develop self-confidence, reflect on and adjust their own study process, thereby ensuring the continuous development of their language ability. ? Teachers should help students carry out self-assessment.
? Students should be active participants and collaborators in a variety of assessment activities. ? Assessment should be an organic part of teaching and learning activities.
? Assessment should help students to analyse their own successes and shortcomings, clarifying the direction in which they need to work.
Make sure formative assessment plays a role in student development
Formative assessment is an important component and driving element of teaching and learning. Formative assessment should check the students’ learning outcomes, attitudes and strategies during the everyday learning process. The purpose of formative assessment is to encourage students, help students adjust the learning process effectively, help students gain a sense of achievement, strengthen their self-confidence, and improve their cooperative spirit. Formative assessment helps students develop from passive objects of assessment to active participants in the assessment process. In order to let formative assessment become an organic part of the study process its important to:
? Establish an open and relaxed atmosphere for assessment
? Use both tests and other methods
? Use a combination of individual and small group assessment
? Encourage students, classmates, teachers and parents to collectively participate in assessment, thereby diversifying the subjects of assessment
Formative assessment can take many forms, such as:
? Comparison and assessment of classroom learning activities
? Self assessment of learning outcomes
? A learning portfolio
? Feedback from parents
? Everyday quizzes and tests
Formative assessment can be recorded in the form of descriptions, levels or marks. No matter what method is used, the role of assessment in encouraging learners must not be forgotten. According to the assessment results, teachers should give students individual feedback, ensuring their steady progress and encouraging them to reflect on and better themselves.
Make sure assessment methods are varied and flexible
Teachers must select assessment methods suitable for the age of the students and the learning conditions. During formal assessment teachers should permit students to select assessment methods that suit their characteristics or strengths. If students get unsatisfactory results during a certain test they should be allowed to negotiate with the teacher to retake the test after sufficient preparation.
Make sure assessment feedback is used to increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning
The teacher should ask themselves the following questions:
? Does the assessment help promote autonomous learning and self-confidence?
? Does the assessment reflect the students’ achievements?
? Does the assessment reflect the teachers’ strengths and weaknesses?
? Does the assessment reflect problems in the students’ learning process?
Teachers should promptly adjust their teaching methods and plans according to assessment feedback.
Summative assessment should focus on checking students’ comprehensive language competence
Summative assessment (such as end of term exams and graduation exams) is the main means of measuring the level of students’ comprehensive language competence. It also reflects the effectiveness of the teaching and learning process and is a major indicator of the schools’ quality in managing teaching and learning. Summative assessment must have the target of assessing students’ comprehensive language competence, striving to scientifically and comprehensively check students’ language level at the end of a particular stage of learning. The following should be observed:
? Exams should include oral, listening and writing amongst other components in assessing students’ comprehensive language competence.
? Listening tests must account for a minimum of twenty percent of termly, yearly and graduation exams. ? Listening tests should check students’ understanding and ability to gain information rather than asking them to distinguish between different pronunciations.
? Writing exams should avoid testing knowledge of phonetics or grammar in isolation.
? There should be an increase in questions that require students to use English in a specific language context.
? Objective questions with a single correct answer should be reduced in favour of more subjective questions with several correct answers.
? Exam results should not be publicly displayed nor students ranked in order of their results.
Recognize the special characteristics of assessment for Grades 3 – 6
The main purpose of assessment at primary level should be to encourage students’ interest and active participation in learning English. Assessment methods should be varied and choice should be offered. Formative assessment should be the main type, focusing mainly on students’ performance and ability to cooperate during a variety of everyday teaching and learning activities.
? In Grades 3 and 4 end of term or end of year assessment should use assessment activities similar to normal teaching and learning activities. Through observing students’ behaviour and discussing with them teachers should assess their ability to use English to do things.
? For end of term or year assessment in Grades 5 and 6 a combination of oral and written tests can be used. Oral tests should check students’ ability to use language to communicate about content close to their real lives. Written tests should focus on checking their listening and reading skills, using methods that are as active and lively as possible.
Pay attention to the relationship between assessment and teaching and learning
Pay attention to the proportion of teaching and learning time spent on assessment. Only carry out assessment that has useful results. Avoid over-elaborate and time-consuming assessment processes. Don’t let assessment become the sole end of teaching and learning.
The assessment of each level should be founded on the general objectives
The general objectives should be the basis for all assessment. Since the assessment of Level 2 will be organized by individual places and schools, formative assessment should be the main means. The same applies to all other levels apart from Levels 5 and 8, whose assessment is organized by national and provincial education bodies. Selection exams should unite the requirements of this curriculum with those of local conditions to establish suitable levels and test demands.
Example 1: Self assessment questionnaire for Grade 7-9 students about learning strategies Includes statements such as:
? I can concentrate during study.
? During communication I use gestures and facial expressions to help express myself.
? I often use associations to help study and remember new words
Students choose between ‘never’, ‘rarely’, ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ and ‘always’.
Example 2: Assessment reference sheet for Grade 3-6 for English ‘playing, performing, watching, speaking and listening’
Example 3: Formative assessment scheme for Grade 3-6 listening at Level 2
Example 4: Guidelines for using student portfolios
Portfolios might include:
? Some kind of baseline assessment
? A record of the students’ classroom performance – e.g. participation in role-plays, volunteering to read something aloud, etc.
? Examples of the students’ best written homework, as selected by themselves
? Teachers’ and parents’ observations on the students’ study situation
? Results of tests and quizzes marked by the teacher, student or students’ classmates, either as grades or written comments
? Students’ self-assessments and reflections on their own attitude, methods and outcomes
Example 5: Guidelines for oral tests
End of term or end of year oral tests should test students’ real ability to express themselves orally. Students can be tested in groups of two, three or four. According to a situation or topic (that might be presented through words or pictures), students discuss and communicate. Teachers should assess their oral expression, communicative ability and effectiveness. The following questions may be useful:
? Is information coherent and easily expressed? (Students may make grammar and vocabulary mistakes that affect the accuracy but the basic information is still transmitted effectively.)
? Are the pronunciation, intonation and rhythm natural? Can the speaker be understood?
? Does the speaker use appropriate communication strategies, such as repetition, clarification, using expressions and gestures, to complete the activity successfully?
Example 6: Reference sheet for the assessment of writing for Levels 3 – 8.
Source of this translation:
英语课程标准教师读本 （修订本），华中师范大学出版社， 2003， 武汉，