Singapore: MOE strengthens language education to prepare kids for global future

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Mar 9 13:56:36 UTC 2007

MOE strengthens language education to prepare kids for global

SINGAPORE: Language education in schools will be strengthened to help
young Singaporeans prepare for a global future. At the same time, to root
them to the country, National Education will also be refined. Every week,
Primary 3, 4 and 5 students at Seng Kang Primary attend either
conversational Malay or Chinese lessons. Lim Lan Chin, Principal of Seng
Kang Primary School, said: "We actually hope to have more interactions of
the various ethnic groups through conversational languages."

In five years, all primary schools and two-thirds of secondary schools
will offer students the opportunity to learn languages other than their
own mother tongue at a conversational level. Last year, only 58 primary
and 47 secondary schools offered conversational Malay or Chinese lessons.
Offering third languages is just one way the Ministry of Education is
supporting language education. "We will take further steps to help
students in learning their mother tongues. To broaden access to Tamil (TL)
instruction, eight more secondary schools will offer TL within curriculum
time from next year. This will bring the total number of such secondary
schools from 81 to 89, well distributed across the island," said Education
Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

The teaching of non-Tamil Indian languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi,
Punjabi and Urdu is also going to get a $1.5 million boost every year.
These lessons are currently provided by community groups and the hope is
that the grant can go towards purchasing more instruction materials and
training of teachers. The Education Ministry is also going to work with
the Board for Teaching and Testing of South Asia Languages to facilitate
the recognition of grades in these languages within schools. This will
allow students to use their language grades to apply for Edusave awards,
which is currently not in practice. The move is in part to make young
immigrants feel more at home. Arabic and Bahasa Indonesia will also be
offered as a four-year course to interested Secondary One students.

These languages will be taught at the Bishan Language Centre from next
year. The aim is to nurture Singaporeans who are able to engage Indonesia
and the Middle East. French, German and Japanese are already currently
being offered at the language centre. Mr Tharman said: "No other Asian
city is making as determined an effort, as determined a move, to nurture
in its citizens, a sense of the world out there, a sense of the
opportunities. We have to do more of it than others because our future
lies in being a global city." But how do educators make students feel
local, even as they are asked to go global?

The answer lies in the National Education Programme which will be tweaked
to give greater focus on emotional rooted-ness. Students will be asked to
take greater ownership, teachers trained to play a more facilitating role,
and parents and school alumni asked to be more involved. The Social
Studies curriculum will also be reviewed. Current feedback by most
students is that National Education is burdensome and boring propaganda.
But with the changes, it is hoped National Education will be a bonding
experience. - CNA/ir

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