[lg policy] Singapore: More debates on MTL: At the heart of the furore is the tie between language and identity

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 17 14:26:45 UTC 2010


May 17, 2010
More debates on MTL: At the heart of the furore is the tie between
language and identity

By Clarissa Oon, Senior Political Correspondent

IT CAME across to some as a rare about-turn in policy, though the
Government denied it ever intended to change such a key plank of its
language policy. Three weeks after Education Minister Ng Eng Hen,
perhaps inadvertently, gave the impression in a press interview that
the weighting of the mother tongue languages (MTL) in the Primary
School Leaving Examination (PSLE) might be reduced, he and Prime
Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a news conference that this was not
the case. Dr Ng even apologised on Tuesday last week for creating 'the
wrong impression', after his remarks had spawned heated debate and a
stream of letters to the press.

Two issues in this saga deserve further examination:

First, why was there such an outcry against the possibility of a
change to the weighting of the MTL in an examination for 12-year-olds?

Second, what explains the Government's actions on the matter?

First, the reactions: There was disquiet among all the major
organisations of the Chinese community. The usually subdued Speakers'
Corner saw one of its largest gatherings, as some 2,500 people filed
into Hong Lim Park on May 9 to sign a petition against cutting the

Read the full story in Monday's edition of The Straits Times.


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