A cohort of 97 students will graduate on 14 March with the Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Language and Literature (BACL) awarded by Beijing Normal University. The programme is jointly run with SIM University. Among the graduates are those who have fulfilled their dreams of attaining a language degree and others who have sought to achieve career goals.
BACL helped youth discover career as a Chinese language teacher
Ms Lim Ming Boon, 28, has been teaching Chinese language to 7- to 13-year olds at the United World College (UWC), Southeast Asia for one and a half years. With students largely comprising Caucasians and Eurasians, Ming Boon is always thinking of creative ways to teach the language. To rouse her students’ interest in a language totally foreign to them, Min Boon engages in game-based learning. She created a memory game in which students match pictures against Chinese words. Another game she plays with her class is "da feng chui" in which students have to read and recognize words on cards given in the game.
Since young, Min Boon has always been interested in music, the arts as well as Chinese language and culture. She pursued music as an ‘A’ level subject at the Raffles Junior College. “Ten years ago, the only way to pursue a degree in music was to go overseas; for me to do that, winning a scholarship was the only option since my parents could not afford it.” Without a scholarship, Ming Boon decided on a different route and completed a degree in Business Studies at NTU, specializing in hospitality and tourism management. But during her internship, she realized the hospitality industry was not suitable for her.
After graduating from NTU, Min Boon became an Arts Administrator at the National Arts Council for about four years before quitting to spend an adventurous year backpacking in Europe. While working at the NAC, she began the BACL programme out of interest for the language. Her studies were disrupted when she went overseas.
On her return, Min Boon taught at a neighbourhood school for three months. She liked teaching but longed for an environment that allowed her to express her creativity. That opportunity came when a friend recommended her to teach Chinese at UWC. Today, after a long journey, Min Boon is a happy 28-year-old who has finally found a fulfilling career. Her father Mr Lim Wan Yong, 62, a retired teacher, is also pursuing the same BACL programme and will be graduating next year.
BACL prepares nurse for a career switch
Four years ago, Ms Sun Li, then only 25, decided to take up the BACL programme at SIM University to pursue her interest in Chinese. At the time, she was a registered nurse at Singapore General Hospital. Now 29, Ms Sun felt she made the right decision to pursue the BACL.
"The (BACL) programme has helped fulfill my dream. My passion for this beautiful language goes back to high school. But in deference to my parents’ wish that I embark on a more practical career, I took up nursing instead. After working for a few years, I decided to take up the BACL. The programme has in turn prepared me for a career switch to become a teacher." Currently a homemaker, Ms Sun has applied to the Ministry of Education to teach Chinese Language in school.
BACL helped mid-career couple
Mdm Toh Lae Lian, 42, has been teaching Chinese at a tuition agency for more than 20 years. The BACL not only fulfilled her dream of a degree, but also helped upgrade her skills and knowledge, resulting in a job advancement.
Mdm Toh managed also to persuade her husband Mr Soh Hua Shun, 43, a merchant with a trading company, to take up the same programme with her. Both felt their decision to study together would set a good example for their three children and encourage them to pursue their dreams regardless of life’s obstacles. The couple agreed not to interfere in each other’s learning strategy and gave each other space to progress at their own pace.
"The course helped me to interact well with the Chinese merchants I meet at work," said Mr Soh. A bonus came in the form of a cash prize of $4,000 that he won in the Chinese television game show 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" in 2003, which tested the knowledge he gained from the BACL programme.
BACL programme helped retired teacher better understand Chinese culture
Mr Leong Ah Kow, 64, a retired teacher, believes that the best way to understand a country is through its culture. This belief was a key reason that motivated him to pursue the BACL through which he gained more knowledge on Chinese culture.
Initially, before enrolling for the BACL in 2002, Mr Leong was concerned about his health, his age, and the ability to manage his time for studies. But on hindsight, he was glad that he proceeded with the programme. Said Mr Leong: "It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to have completed the BACL within the stipulated time. I am more confident now, and am better able to handle pressure." Mr Leong enjoyed learning the language so much that he plans to pursue a master’s and even a PhD in the future.
Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth & Sports, will be the Guest of Honour at the graduation ceremony. Professor Han Zhen, Vice President, Beijing Normal University, will be the Presiding Officer.