Bridging the Cultural Gap: A Guide to EJ BSP

Written by: Beverly Tan (19-E3)

Interviewers: Beverly Tan (19-E3) and Zhao Keyang (19-I1)

Designed by: Loh Zheng Lucas (19-A4)

‘Just because you’re bilingual doesn’t mean you’re bicultural’ is a quote that has been etched in my memory for a long time. After attending a seminar conducted by a translator during my BSP camp in Secondary 3, the realisation of the importance of possessing cultural intelligence of both Eastern and Western cultures dawned upon me. As we all know, China’s manpower, natural resources and rapid urbanisation is an indication of its advancements towards superpower status. Due to China’s growing importance, the study of contemporary China is becoming a topic of interest, with the emergence of programmes like BSP.  

Thus, this leads to the crux of my article – what is BSP? Is it a program that promotes the usage of the Chinese language in schools despite its ‘obsoleteness’ in our post-HCL O level days?

BSP stands for Bicultural Studies Programme. It is a programme helmed by MOE that aims to cultivate a deep understanding of both Western and Chinese cultures in students and engage them in tackling the complexities of contemporary China’s local and international issues, such as trade and foreign relations.

For JIP students, applications for BSP commence in Secondary 2. Actual curriculum starts from Secondary 3, spanning until their J2 year, should they decide to continue being part of BSP. As for non-BSP students who are interested in applying for BSP in J1, they must study H2 China Studies in Chinese (CSC) to be admitted into the programme.

I know there are many people who perceive BSP as a dry and boring programme. Well, these assumptions are not true. Through BSP, I had the opportunity to attend seminars, camps and embarked on an overseas immersion trip to Shanghai and Nanjing in Secondary 3 (note: locations of trips differ across all schools offering BSP). In EJ, our BSP teachers make an effort to make BSP as interesting and engaging as possible through discussions and inviting guest speakers to share different perspectives of China. The insights I gained of China’s construction of its rags to riches narrative, from the ‘Sleeping Dragon’ in the 20th century to the recognised global superpower it is today, are truly invaluable.

To provide more insights about BSP, I interviewed Dania Tan (19-A5) and Khoo Kiat Lun (19-O2), with the help of Zhao Keyang (19-I1), to share their BSP experiences:

Question 1:  Why did you choose to enter BSP?

Dania: I chose to enter the BSP programme in secondary school as I already had a keen interest in China’s development, as well as its culture. I felt that joining this programme is a good avenue for me to understand China better.

Kiat Lun: I thought that BSP was a meaningful programme. Also, I had a strong interest in both the English and Chinese languages. Through BSP, I hoped that I can better understand Western and Eastern cultures with greater depth.

Question 2: What is the content covered in BSP classes?

Dania: I learned about China’s economy, its social demographic and foreign relations. There was also a series of lessons about analysing one of the ‘Four Classics of Chinese Literature’ – The Dream of the Red Chamber.

Kiat Lun: At the beginning, we learned ancient Chinese history, then we moved on to modern China. We compared its society and economy to other countries. China’s relations with other countries were also discussed. For example, we discussed the ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy and its possible developments.

Question 3: How has BSP shaped your perspective of China?

Dania: Previously, I had very little knowledge on China, so I used to often hear things about how China was backward. After attending BSP lessons, I have learned about how China is actually extremely advanced and has a burgeoning economy.

Kiat Lun: At first, I did not see China as a rising power because I did not know that China had the potential to grow. After attending BSP, I get to see China’s rapid development and potential to advance further.

Question 4: Can you share an unforgettable moment of your BSP journey?

Dania: An unforgettable memory for me would be my BSP trip to China with my BSP batchmates in Secondary 3. I got to experience the way of life in China and  the education system there. I visited many memorial halls and gained deeper insights on China’s history. It was a very rewarding experience as I got to know my classmates better and I had a really good time there. Therefore, I decided to apply for the Eunoia G.O. BSP trip to Chongqing and Chengdu.  

Kiat Lun: During my Sec 3 BSP trip, my friends and I experienced ‘culture shock’ when we had a student exchange session at a local school as the students were very hardworking, which was very different from Singaporean student culture. In the same trip, I participated in an entrepreneurship programme, which was very fun and enriching as I learned more about setting up a business.

Question 5: What are your greatest takeaways from being part of BSP?

Dania: I think that one of the greatest takeaway is that I feel that I have understood China at a greater and deeper level and I think that this will be beneficial for me in the future as China is becoming increasingly influential on a global scale.

Kiat Lun: My greatest takeaways would be the knowledge I gain from attending BSP lessons as I understand more about China. The friendship forged between BSP students from other schools is also another big takeaway.

To conclude, BSP is truly an eye opening programme that I am grateful to be a part of. When I first joined BSP, I was expecting to learn more about China. Instead, I found myself becoming a more culturally intelligent and reflective individual. If you’re a prospective student, do consider joining EJ BSP! We may not have cookies but we can assure you that the weekly one hour BSP lesson is nothing short of fruitful.    

Note: Thank you Dania and Kiat Lun for taking the time to participate in the interviews. Also, special thanks to Lucas for helping with the design.  

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