Students at Abbotsford Primary School have the unique opportunity to develop proficiency in Chinese via both explicit instruction and language immersion.
The Abbotsford Bilingual Model comprises 5 hours a week of Chinese where the focus is on the language development.
As there are no expectation that students would enter the school with any proficiency in Chinese, significant instruction hours are required for the teaching of both oral and written language. This contrasts greatly with English, in which students tend to have already developed (at least some) oral language before entering school. For example, research has found that native speakers typically can understand 6,000 words (and produce around 2,200 words) in their native language by the age of 5.
Outside of the 5 hours, students apply and practise their Chinese for 7.5 more hours per week by being immersed in a Chinese classroom environment for other subjects. In these sessions, teachers adopt a teaching model known as Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL).
A CLIL curriculum requires specialist training to ensure that students are developing understandings and skills in both the content and language via which the content is taught. This means a carefully crafted curriculum where teachers plan content-based lessons while also taking into account of the language needs of the students ('communication'), the way literacy is applied to the discipline ('culture') and the thinking skills behind what is taught ('cognition').
Typically, teachers use up to 25% of a CLIL session on the language development, although it must be noted that the ultimate goal of these 7.5 hours is on the relevant understandings and skills of the subject curriculum, rather than the language itself.
Unlike the typical LOTE programs or even enhanced LOTE programs offered, the curriculum at Abbotsford Primary School showcases a dual focus on both language development (via Chinese) and immersion (via subjects taught in Chinese). This has only been made possible by the fact that the school offers a Designated Bilingual Program, for which students are taught in Chinese for 12.5 hours a week (50% of all curriculum hours.)
The Chinese team at Abbotsford Primary School has developed a unique Chinese curriculum for the bilingual program, as inspired by the English as Additional Language (EAL) model.
Over the 7 years of primary schooling, students are expected to make a conceptually equivalent progress from Level A1 to B2, as per the Victorian Curriculum for EAL.
Similarly, benchmarks have also been established for character recognition, character production and vocabulary/grammar development (as measured by the requirements for Young Learners Chinese Test (YCT), the official Chinese government-run proficiency test requirements for school-aged students):
|Years||Equivalent EAL Level||Character Recognition||Character Production||YCT Level|
F - 2
100 (+ pinyin)
|3 - 4||B1||240||160||2|
|5 - 6||B2||600||300||3|
For reference: VCE Chinese (Second Language) in Year 12 requires students to be able to recognise and produce 500 characters.