Singapore: MINativ Program

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Mar 29 13:21:54 UTC 2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

MINativ Program - March 27th

At assembly today, Mr Simen spoke about the MINativ Program. The reason
why students were able to speak good English in the past was derived from
the strong role-models they had in English medium schools. In our school
in the 1950s and 1960s, it took the form of the Brothers of St Gabriels
and teachers who used the English language well. They did not have
Singlish as role-models. In their homes, lay teachers may have used
Teochew and the dialects but it was an entirely different language which
did not interfere in the proficient use of English.

Students (and even teachers) today are different. They had Singlish and
Mandarin as role-models and the home language. They grew up in the late
1970s and 1980s in a bilingual environment where mother tongue was
encouraged as a language policy but more importantly with Singlish as the
role-model used by many. In the homes, schools and daily communication,
Singlish is frequently used which ultimately results in the 'watering
down' of the standards of English we once had in the 1950s and 1960s. The
result is the current status we find our selves in today - declining
standards of both spoken and written English.

The only way to improve English is to adopt the strategy used during the
SARs Outbreak in 2003 - Ring-fencing. " Ring-fence Montfort School with
good 'native' speakers of the English Language", Mr Simen said. The goal
is to use standard English in spoke and written language in the school.
Teachers and students should take it in the right spirits. They should
correct each other's spoken and written English in 'good spirits' and it
should be taken in the 'right spirit' of camaraderie, acceptance and
humility. Outside of school, basilects, masolects, dialects, pidgin
English and Singlish may be used in less formal circumstances. Within
Montfort School, the goal would be standard formal English. Gradually, as
teachers and students become more proficient with the English Language,
they would also become more adept at code-switching, but never unskilled,
unschooled, unintended, random and confused code-mixing.

As part of the MINativ project, a contract would be given to both teachers
and students to fill out if they were keen to participate in this
school-wide exercise. Mr Simen challenged the school to take up the
MINativ Program.


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