I was prepared to open the book and immediately read about Chinese Education in Singapore. I work at a Chinese university in Indonesia and one of my lecturer colleagues is from Singapore, so I was looking forward to a pleasant read that would further social discussion with my expatriate colleague. This book will do that, but not in the way I expected. It is non-fiction, occasionally dense, and certainly supports my idea of “Read Everything.”
Chinese Education in Singapore by Zhang Zhixiong
The first chapter is devoted to a detailed discussion of the history of clans in China, their names (which have different pronunciations in different dialects) and a history of clan wars and disputes. I felt most of this could only be appreciated by a Chinese person brought up in a Chinese cultural background. For me, it was “move on, nothing to see here.”
Chapter two is about the Chinese language in its many, many forms. With maps. Even the author writes “Sorry about the hardcore use of Mandarin in this chapter. You may stay with me, or skip to Chapter Three.” [loc 234]. I didn’t take the advice, and I am glad I didn’t. This chapter will be of interest to those interested in studying Chinese and to those who work with Chinese people. There are times when two people speaking Chinese seem to not quite understand what each one is saying. This chapter will tell you why. There are also some interesting historical notes. And some humor.
And the rest of the book is on target as far as content. In the following seven chapters plus an epilogue, the author describes the struggle for linguistic diversity in education and how it can be preserved when there is also a demand for standardization that will support an end goal of an internationally recognized, accredited degree or diploma. Zhang describes the struggle of females to be educated. (Pay attention to the inequality in females studying A levels compared to males). She describes the complex political atmosphere from the time Singapore and Malaysia were two separate British protectorates, a time when Singapore was a part of Malaysia, then Singapore independence. This is a simplification; Zhang describes it in detail. I am reviewing what I liked in the book. For details (again, well referenced) read the book.
Political conflict alone can be thought of as polite and not violent. But there can be a violent component in the form of riots or outright insurrections and war. Zhang describes these as well, both the homegrown internal conflicts as well as proxy wars.
This book is not as long as it first appears when initially opened. This is not a criticism; I appreciated the references and I clicked on the hyperlinked numbers inserted into the text frequently. I just want to point out that this is not as long as a Kindle end location of 2479 would indicate. The author begins a section titled “EXPLANATORY NOTES AND a list of References” at 65% in my mobi formatted ebook. This is followed at the 88% point with a Glossary of Chinese terms provided in characters and Romanization.
I got this book through a Library Thing Member Giveaway in return for a review. This is an informative book. I learned things. It took me a while to get through it from time of acquisition to review. Apologies to the author. But those first two chapters are daunting.