Plugging Mother tongue gap in Singapore

Anthea Fraser Gupta A.F.Gupta at
Wed Mar 16 19:35:58 UTC 2005

Those who want to know more about the socio-political definition of
'mother-tongue' in Singapore should look at my webpages! The 'mother
tongue' is allocated on the basis of paternal ancestry. All children
must study English (and nearly all education is in English-medium) plus
the 'mother-tongue' which is taught also in the context of supporting a
person's ancestral culture. The paternal lineage problem is very
difficuly for children of mixed ethnicity. Malay is associated with the
Malay ethnic group and with Islam, but of course (as this article says)
is an important language of commmunication with Singapore's neighbours,
especially with Indonesia where English is not as widely known as it is
in Malaysia.

Malay has been available for some years as a 'third language' for
Singaporean children, but was taken up by very few. Back in 1994 I
called for Mandarin to be available for non-Chinese children: as
Mandarin is Singapore's second most important language the exclusion
from learning it in school disempowers many ethnic minority children. I
notice this article doesn't mention promoting Mandarin cross-ethnically.

This article calls for two things that I personally would support:

1) more opportunity for free choice of the language studied in addition
to English;

2) more encouragement of the learning of languages in addition to the
two required ones.


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Anthea Fraser Gupta (Dr)
School of English, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT
NB: Reply to a.f.gupta at
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