[lg policy] Singapore: Breaking down barriers with bilingualism

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sun Nov 8 20:31:54 UTC 2015


Breaking down barriers with bilingualism

All students had to study mother tongue and English, which also became
working language

Ho Ai Li

The study of a second language would become compulsory in all government or
government-aided schools of all language streams, it was announced in
November 1965. The policy, which took effect the following year, 1966,
marked the start of Singapore's bilingual education policy. Under the
change, all students would also be required to offer a second language for
the school certificate examination from 1969.

The move led to the introduction of the teaching of three mother tongues -
Chinese, Malay and Tamil - in English-medium schools; and English in the
Chinese, Malay and Tamil medium schools. It also paved the way for English
to become the common working language.

Announcing the policy at a Teachers Training College graduation ceremony at
Victoria Theatre in 1965, Education Minister Ong Pang Boon said: "The
breaking down of the language barrier, inimical to racial unity, must be
further intensified to strengthen the foundations of a multiracial nation.

"It is in the schools that we must intensify our efforts."

    In the 1960s and up to the 1980s, parents could enrol their children in
vernacular schools. But these were gradually phased out as more children
went to English-medium schools

The move was also to ensure that future school-leavers would be proficient
in at least two languages, and better serve Singapore's multiracial and
multilingual society.

"Similarly, all the institutions of higher learning in the state should
proceed in earnest to provide facilities for the study of languages,
particularly for students who are monolingual," he said.

The teachers' college played a vital role in raising the standards of the
second language in schools, he said, as it was where a large number of
language teachers would be trained to meet demand.

Besides training new language teachers, special training courses for the
more than 1,000 existing language teachers must be completed in the next
few years, he said.

In Parliament in 1966, Mr Ong gave an update, noting that all 114
government and government-aided secondary schools offered a second language.

In the 1960s and up to the 1980s, parents could enrol their children in
vernacular schools. But these were gradually phased out as more children
went to English-medium schools. The Government announced that by 1987, all
students here would be taught in English.

The bilingual language policy led to a shift in the predominant language
spoken at home. English became increasingly spoken by Singaporeans at home;
Mandarin also gradually replaced the use of Chinese dialects in the home.

This week in 1965: A look back at the events that shaped Singapore 50 years
ago In the 1960s and up to the 1980s, parents could enrol their children in
vernacular schools. But these were gradually phased out as more children
went to English-medium schools.

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/breaking-down-barriers-with-bilingualism


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