Bridging the Cultural Gap: A Guide to EJ CSC

Written by: Beverly Tan (19-E3)

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

Designed by: Lucas Loh (19-A4)


Do you have a passion for learning about China or have plans to work there? H2 China Studies in Chinese (CSC) may be the subject for you. To gain more insights about studying the subject, I interviewed Chen Xin Tong (19-A1), Tessa Chiam (19-U2) and Ong Chong Yu (18-A1) to share their CSC experiences.

Question 1: Why did you choose to study H2 CSC?

Xin Tong: I took up the BSP scholarship in Secondary 2 and studying CSC was one of the conditions of the scholarship. I’m also quite interested in knowing more about China as it is doing very well in the economy and being exposed to their national affairs will definitely benefit me.

Tessa: I am a BSP scholar so it was compulsory for me to study CSC. In addition, I enjoy travelling to China and I felt that if I learned more about China, I would be able to appreciate China better.

Chong Yu:  I studied CSC because I was nominated for the BSP scholarship. After considering it for some time, I decided to apply for the scholarship because I was interested in CSC and received it. Due to the heavy emphasis on biculturalism in my secondary school, I wanted to view China in a broader perspective, instead of focusing on narrowed down topics like its economy.

Question 2: What topics do you learn in H2 CSC?

Xin Tong: China’s economy, environmental problems and income inequality are some of the many topics we learn in CSC.

Tessa:  We have to study China’s economics, politics, society, environmental problems and policies that the government has to solve this issues.

Chong Yu: China’s economy, politics, foreign relations, societal issues like the one child policy, ageing population, rise of the middle class etc. – are topics we study in CSC.

Question 3: What challenges have you faced so far studying CSC? How have you overcome these challenges?

Xin Tong: I need to read up a lot on every topic and the school’s CSC notes mainly comprise of data, so the notes will not make sense unless I read up.

Tessa: For now, I’m learning (about) China’s economy and there are a lot of key terms about economics in Chinese (I don’t even understand what those mean in English). I have been going for consultations regularly. Do not wait until the last minute to consult your tutor. If you ask for consultations at the last minute, your tutor would definitely be tired because you’ll certainly have a lot of questions and it is very taxing for you and your tutor.

Chong Yu: Understanding the notes is challenging. For CSC, there are a lot of technical terms in every topic. Most students find CSC concepts difficult to understand, until the teacher explains it in simpler terms. There is unfortunately, a lot of room for misunderstanding in CSC essays, which can stem from errors in language use or misunderstanding of key terms. Consultations help to clarify doubts. Several of my classmates try to reorganize their notes into mind maps. By doing so, you can see the links in the topic and across topics clearly. This would definitely be beneficial as incorporating links in the topic and across topics in CSC essays is essential in obtaining higher marks.

Question 4: How are H2 CSC classes conducted?

Xin Tong: Like other subjects, there will be CSC lectures and tutorials. However, the lectures don’t really match up with the tutorial and there is no lecture replay. You have to be very attentive during lessons.

Tessa: We have one lecture per week. The lecture group is small compared to other subjects as there are not a lot of students studying CSC in EJ. I think this is better for students because the teacher can afford to go slow for certain topics and this really helps you understand your topics.

Chong Yu: We have the usual lecture and tutorial system. During tutorials, the teachers address mass issues like answering techniques or going through papers. Tutorials are more content heavy than lectures. The teachers attempt to make CSC tutorials more interesting, so they will sometimes facilitate debates held on new topics that are yet to be taught. This encourages us to do our research before learning new topics.

Question 5: What are the highlights of studying H2 CSC?

Xin Tong: A highlight is that you get to learn in the most beautiful and ornate room in EJ, surrounded by Chinese furniture and tea sets.

Tessa: A highlight would be discussions during CSC tutorials. For example, my class had a debate about the sustainability of a measure designed to improve China’s economy. I was one of the debaters and as a debater, you have to understand the issue from both perspectives. Even though I think I messed up at some point, the debate was an unforgettable experience as it makes us learn our notes and different perspectives in interesting ways.

Chong Yu: A highlight of CSC is attending BSP talks, which I find very informative because the topics are relevant to our syllabus. Besides, I get to interact with CSC students from other schools. Immersion trips are also another highlight of CSC. Our notes “come to life” through hands-on experience and I get to witness the development of cities of varying tiers myself.

On top of coursework, H2 CSC students have to submit a thesis paper that constitutes part of their A level grade in their J2 year. However, do not let this rain on your parade and let Chong Yu tell you more about the thesis paper.

Question 1: What are the requirements of the CSC thesis paper?

The CSC thesis paper is a 3000-4000 word research essay. The topics can be anything related to China and CSC. However, they have to be China-centric. You have to read a lot to get as many examples so you can find something to use in your paper.

Question 2: I heard that you have to write your CSC thesis paper while studying for your A levels, how do you manage your time?

I will pace myself and set deadlines, like completing one paragraph every two weeks. Breaking the essay up will make it less taxing to write. You shouldn’t rush to complete it at the last minute, which would impact the quality of your thesis essay.

Question 3: In what aspects is the J2 CSC thesis paper similar to the Year 4 BSP thesis paper?

I think the CSC thesis paper is more different than similar to the Y4 BSP thesis paper. For both thesis papers, you have to create surveys and analyse data collected from your surveys. However, unlike the Y4 BSP thesis paper which requires an element of comparison between China and Singapore, the CSC thesis paper is China-centric and requires students to build up on past research of their selected topic.  

Question 4: What obstacles have you faced while writing your CSC thesis paper so far?

Sieving out useful information is challenging. Piecing the information together to form a coherent paragraph is even more difficult. It is very time consuming as you have to read a lot.

Question 5: Do you have any advice for prospective juniors who plan to study CSC?

At first, CSC seems daunting but it is honestly not as bad as you would expect it to be. As long as you’re willing to put in more effort to understand and clarify your doubts with the teachers, you should be able to have a good grasp on the topics. When you’re able to grasp topics, you can answer most questions, so don’t be scared of taking CSC. For J1s, I suggest doing external readings, especially when you think certain topics don’t have enough examples. Doing research and arranging consultations will be helpful. In addition, you can practice writing paragraphs and letting the teachers mark them, so they can vet the accuracy of your work. To do well for CSC, you have to be precise and strategic in your analysis and chosen points. Jiayou!

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