Spread the love

Q: What is Higher Chinese in primary school?

A: Higher Chinese is the advanced version of the normal Chinese language curriculum that students take in primary school.

If you are taking Chinese at a higher level, you’ll be exposed to about 20-30% more words than what’s normally covered in your primary school Chinese syllabus.

The curriculum is also going to be more challenging as it requires students to apply higher-order thinking in their comprehensions and compositions.

Here’s a table to help you compare the differences between Higher Chinese and Chinese.

Higher Chinese

Standard Chinese (Normal Chinese)

Wider range of vocab
Standard vocabulary
Focuses on Chinese culture appreciation
Higher order thinking skills required for composition and comprehension
Different degrees of thinking skills spread over all components
Heavier workload - 3 extra lessons outside school hours and twice the amount of Chinese homework
Standard school hours

Assessable Components - HCL

Assessable Components - CL

No oral and listening comprehension
Oral and listening comprehension
Paper 1 (composition - Situational writing and continuous writing)
Paper 1 (composition - Situational writing and picture composition)
Paper 2 (written - fill in the blanks, summaries and comprehension)
Paper 2 (written - MCQs and comprehension)

Should you decide to take Higher Chinese, it’s going to be considered as an additional subject on top of the usual 4 subjects (English, Math, Mother Tongue and Science). This will ultimately translate into an extra exam day at PSLE.

Q: How do you qualify for Higher Chinese in primary school?

A: Most schools will offer Higher Chinese to students in Primary 5 based on their end-of-year exam results in Primary 4. Students who have obtained a Band 1 for all their subject will automatically be qualified.

There are exceptions though.

For those of you who have a Band 2 in one of the subjects, you may be offered too if you show a good proficiency in Chinese.

Q: Is taking higher Chinese better?

A: Yes and no. At the end of the day, it really depends on what you want to achieve.

Taking Chinese at a higher level is good when you want to:

  • increase your child’s exposure to the Chinese language. Being able to appreciate and understand Chinese culture better opens up a whole new world of opportunities and perspectives later on in life.
  • boosts their normal Chinese results. With a more in-depth understanding of Chinese grammar and vocabulary, your overall Chinese standard will naturally improve.
  • prepare your child for secondary school, especially if you join a SAP or IP programme. Learning Higher Chinese at the primary level will give you an edge if you need to take it in secondary school. Being better prepared means less struggling and better confidence.

Now that we’ve learnt the advantages, let’s consider some other factors.

Q: Does higher Chinese help in PSLE?

A: With its tougher curriculum, the top question that I often get from many parents is whether Higher Chinese is worth taking.

To be honest, if you want to use it to enhance your PSLE score, it’s not going to affect it significantly.

With the new PSLE grading system, the possible Higher Mother Tongue PSLE grading are D for distinction, M for merit and P for pass. However, this is only an advantage IF you are applying for a SAP school in Singapore.

So unless you’re planning for your child to go to a SAP school, you might not want them to take an additional subject.

Q: What kind of child should take Higher Chinese then?

A: A child that likes Chinese and has good time management skills.

From experience. I can tell you that Higher Chinese is a very demanding subject. But despites its challenges, it can also be a subject that’s fun and enjoyable depending on your school teacher’s teaching style (there’s a bit of a luck factor here =p)

I’ve taught many kids who come from English speaking families and the happiest students are always those who are genuinely interested in the subject.

Being good at it and liking it are 2 different things.

A child doesn’t have to be fantastic at scoring in a Higher Chinese exam on day one, but as long as they have the interest, they’ll eventually overcome the challenges and get at least a merit.

However, they don’t like Chinese from the start, forcing them to take Higher Chinese will be a painful experience for you and your child.

Due to the workload of Higher Chinese, it would be an advantage if your child can juggle their time well. Otherwise, if they are struggling to cope with the extra homework, they may end up compromising their performance in their other 4 subjects instead.

If they had spent the additional free time on their 4 main subjects, you might see a more significant improvement in their results over time.


Taking Higher Chinese in primary school has its benefits. Whether you decide to take it now or later in secondary school, I feel that it’s important to ask your child’s opinion too. Discuss the pros and cons with them and hear how they feel before making the leap.

Don’t worry too much about making an irreversible decision though. Luckily, you can always drop the subject at the end of Primary 5 if you change your mind later.

Leave a Reply

Close Bitnami banner