Confucius Institute at the University of Poitiers Promotes HSK to a Full Swing

[Source]    Confucius Institute at the University of Poitiers [Time]    2011-07-01 14:47:25 

Confucius Institute at the University of Poitiers was the first Confucius Institute to launch the Chinese Language Proficiency Test- HSK in France. University of Poitiers was also the first university to launch the HSK. Numbers of exam entrants have increased annually since May 2007 when the Confucius Institute launched the first HSK and a total of 37 examinees signed up. In 2010 there were 49 HSK examinees. Four examination rooms were used for the HSK taking place on May 21st, 2011 and the majority of those sitting the exam were from the Confucius Institute and Confucius Classroom at Camille Guérin High School. Approximately sixty examinees participated in levels 2, 3 and 6. Chinese Language Proficiency Test has been incorporated in the annual working normalization system of the Institute and “HSK fever” continues to spread throughout the area and shows evidence of future longevity.

Confucius Institute at the University of Poitiers was also the first Confucius Institute to launch Youth Chinese Test (YCT) in France. The Institute successfully launched the first Youth Chinese Test in France on March 12nd, 2011. A total of 14 students participated in the Level 1 Test, all received a passing grade. In addition, three of the test takers got full marks with 200 points. Some of the younger students (5 or 6 years old) also did well in the test. This successful experience has greatly enhanced teachers’ enthusiasm for their work as well as the interest in learning held by students. On May 14th, Confucius Institute at the University of Poitiers kept up the good work by launching the second YCT. The same students challenged two levels of YCT in two months.

Encouraged by teachers and parents, most pupils signed up for the YCT Level 2 test launched on May 14th. The students had prepared for the test in less than two months studying only one hour per week at the Confucius Institute. Therefore, it was a great challenge for them to take the YCT Level 2. A total of 12 students participated in the test that took place on May 14th. With experience from the previous test and the help of several targeted review lessons, the children were not lacking in confidence though they were a little nervous. During the 50-minute test, every one of the little examinees switched from the vivaciousness and restlessness of their classroom personas and entered a state of mind suitable for taking a test with undivided attention. YCT Level 2 is more difficult than Level 1 and reading comprehension questions featured in the test paper. Reading Chinese is a great challenge for Chinese learners, therefore, in comparison with Level 1, YCT Level 2 is a more systematic and in-depth test which calls for greater competence.

What gratified the teachers and parents most was the fact that there 11 out of the 12 YCT Level 2 entrants passed the exam with either full marks or nearly full marks. In order to meet local elementary and secondary students’ growing demand for Chinese Testing, Confucius Institute at the University of Poitiers will organize two YCT Chinese tests in this August and November. This set of examinees will take YCT four times in a year.

With more than four years of hosting examinations, we can sum up our experiences with reference to the following experience and feelings:

I. The Confucius Institute should place working emphasis on the Chinese Proficiency Test and work towards publicizing the Chinese Proficiency Test. Many learners are unaware that there actually is a Chinese Proficiency Test: this is particularly true in the case of the new HSK and YCT. It is necessary for the Confucius Institute to generate publicity and introduce learners to the testing system and make them aware of the benefits which a Certificate of Chinese Competency allows a candidate when entering into higher education obtaining employment or choosing a school. These explanations should include vivid examples and convey the understanding that taking tests is an effective means for facilitating Chinese learning with the effect of stimulating learners’ enthusiasm. Most undergraduates and secondary students took the test as a result of encouragement from the Confucius Institute. However, after taking the test, they became aware of the fact that they had benefited a great deal from the test. Following this realization they signed up for higher level tests on their own initiative.

II. Entering a test is not just a means to an ends, but an effective tool. We have found that this way of “promoting study through testing” has played a prominent role in stimulating teaching at the Confucius Institute. We have joked before that students would become addicted to taking the Chinese Proficiency Test. Although students were encouraged by the Confucius Institute to participate in their first Chinese test, after having taken one test, they are always interested and eager to take up the challenge of trying to advance to the next level. Students’ Chinese proficiency increases without conscious effort.

III. YCT is a specialized test, so when encouraging students to participate in the test; we also need to coordinate with parents. We have held two YCT test mobilization meetings for parents. We explained to parents that the purpose of taking the test was not that of putting pressure on little students, but that of increasing their confidence and stimulating their interest in learning Chinese. Non native speaking children have two obvious Chinese learning characteristics. The first is that it is easy for them to learn, but that it is also even easier for them to forget. If we only provide “Classes for Interest” in Chinese teaching, without introducing examinations, children will learn inefficiently. When they gain new knowledge they will be prone to losing previously gained knowledge. The outcome is that of wasting time and resources. On the other hand, a standardized examination system aids little students in gaining new insights through the review of previously learnt material. The YCT was meticulously designed. Level 1 includes 80 words and phrases, and the Level 2 includes 150 words and phrases- these include the 80 words and phrases used in Level 1. Therefore, the process of studying for the test is in reality a process of repetition based learning and consolidating memorized material. The second feature of non native speaking children learning Chinese is that their age is a fantastic advantage in language learning and that they have huge potential. In October 2010, the Children’s Class of the Confucius Institute began to enroll new students. The students were complete beginners. Following the introduction of the examination system, they passed Level 1 Test in March 2011, Level 2 in May and are expected to pass Level 3 in August and Level 4 in November. The students will pass 4 test levels in one year and master 600 Chinese words and phrases, enabling them to read Chinese fairy tales and children’s books. This will greatly stimulate students’ enthusiasm for learning. Only when students have gained the skill of reading Chinese, may they have lasting and steady Chinese proficiency and avoid falling into the trap of “getting half the results by making twice the effort”. Studying basic and specific language over a period of a year will benefit children for the rest of their lives. After attending the mobilization meeting, the parents showed support for the test and supervision of children in reviewing and studying for the test at home.

IV. Good organizational efforts and services before and after the test. The work undertaken by YCT and HSK testing by no means limited to the day on which the test is launched. There are also a number of things which should be done prior and subsequent to testing. We at the Confucius Institute take active role in training organized by the Division of Testing of Hanban. Under the guidance of Hanban International Center for Chinese Language Examination, the Confucius Institute administers the test in strict accordance with the relevant exam standards and criteria as specified by the Center. The Confucius Institute has specialized personnel responsible for the registration of the test, provision of “one-stop service” for the students and for aiding students in signing up as well as overcoming obstacles and difficulties. Auxiliary classes are held before the test, providing students with practice tests, enabling them to familiarize themselves with examination question styles and increase their test efficiency. Practice tests will be followed by plenary classes which provide expositive teaching to deal with commonly made mistakes. After the test has been sat, the Confucius Institute promptly organizes a meeting between teachers and students and answers the students’ questions, making the students understand the test even better. After the end of the test, the Confucius Institute gives some little prizes such as Chinese bookmarks and institute magazines from the Confucius Institute etc. to the examinees as gifts. After the exam results are published, the Confucius Institute informs test takers and their parents of the results and organizes special certificate awards ceremony to impart students with a sense of honor.

The undertaking of the Chinese Proficiency Test at Confucius Institute at the University of Poitiers has been normalized. The number of entrants exceeds one hundred every year. It is a great success in Poitiers which has a population of 80 thousand. However, we will not content ourselves with the present result. We hope that the number of entrants for the Chinese Proficiency Test will be more than 200 per year in 2 years time.

Chen Mengwen / Chinese Director of Confucius Institute at the University of Poitiers