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Revised English textbook to keep Shanghai kids in front

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-22 09:15

A revised English textbook for senior high school students in Shanghai, designed to maintain their status as leaders in English ability on the mainland, will debut in the spring semester in March.

Most of the content has been replaced by updated materials reflecting a global perspective and Chinese culture, said Shu Dingfang, chief expert at the Shanghai Center for Research in English Language Education, which led work on the textbook's revision.

The textbook will be adopted by at least 10 schools as a pilot before being promoted citywide in September 2019.

Chinese parents and children have been paying more attention to learning English as the country has become increasingly international, and Shanghai is publicly recognized as representing the highest level of English teaching and learning on the mainland, said Jia Wei, deputy director of the Shanghai Education Commission.

"The new textbook is an effort to ensure the city continues to have an advantage and ideally generate a world impact, just like Shanghai students' strong performance in mathematics," he said.

Shanghai ranked first in math in the 2013 Program for International Student Assessment, an international study assessing 15-year-olds on key knowledge and skills.

The revised English textbook features speeches by public figures such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, as well as Chinese literature, history and geography, according to Shu, whose center is part of Shanghai International Studies University.

For example, he said, it includes the translated version of a classical article from the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) that talks about the importance and methods of learning and is also in the Chinese textbook for high school students. "Students are familiar with the article, and more importantly its philosophy of encouraging youths to be persistent in learning and accumulating knowledge corresponds with the call for the young generation today," Shu said.

Local elements, such as articles describing the Bund - a riverside landmark - and those referring to the city's financial and trade development, were also introduced, he added.

Jiang Feng, Party secretary of the Shanghai university, said, "English teaching and learning serves as an excellent platform to empower the young generation with the methods and capability to experience the breadth of cultures, as well as form a sense of patriotism from an early age." Experts also called for the education authority to establish a resource bank providing teachers with supplementary English teaching materials in multimedia formats and various types of literature.

"Textbooks alone cannot satisfy the need of English learning today as they provide only the basics," said Zou Weicheng, a professor at East China Normal University's School of Foreign Languages. "A resource bank can provide more choices for teachers based on their students' varied interests and study levels."

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