10 May 2010, 9.00AM
Education Minister Ng Eng Hen recently said in an interview to the press that his Ministry is currently reviewing the weighting given to Mother Tongue language in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and its teaching methods. The possible reduction in weighting of the Mother Tongue Language in the PSLE has since attracted much discussion on the REACH platforms.
While contributors welcome a review of the Mother Tongue language pedagogy, most are concerned about the possibility of a cut back on the weighting, which they feel runs contrary to Singapore's bilingual policy and the Government's efforts to promote the Mother Tongue language. Many disagreed that the move will help strengthen Singapore's bilingual edge, arguing that students would, as a result, feel less motivated to do well in the subject, and this would undermine the standard of the language. Some contributors perceive the move as benefiting students from English-speaking families who do not excel in their Mother Tongue language, and that students who are generally stronger in their Mother Tongue language may lose out to their peers in the education system. Several contributors expressed gratitude to the Government for its emphasis on the Mother Tongue all these years, which they noted has helped Singaporeans retain their cultural roots as well as give them a competitive advantage in the globalised world.
Instead of tweaking the weighting of the Mother Tongue language, contributors suggest that the Education Ministry consider lowering the entry requirement for the language at selected top schools only; or allowing students to compute their PSLE aggregate score based on any of their best three subjects, with a minimum pass grade for their English and Mother Tongue language. Some feel that it is imperative that the Ministry customise teaching methods to help weaker students and continue to instil interest for the Mother Tongue language amongst students. They urge the Ministry to move cautiously on this issue and seek public views before implementing the proposed change.
Others however, support the move, noting that this is in line with Singapore's changing socio-economic and demographic profiles where there are increasingly more children from English speaking homes. Some children from these homes have difficulties coping with Mother Tongue and are disadvantaged at the PSLE and their subsequent posting to secondary schools. They note that these children have to struggle to keep up with Mother Tongue, putting in an inordinate amount of effort going for tuition classes etc and yet often do not do well. This has in turn seriously affected their morale.
Noting the public's concerns on the issue, the Ministry of Education and the Prime Minister has reassured the public that emphasis on Mother Tongue remains a vital feature of our education system, and that the Government will progressively strengthen and update the teaching and examination of Mother Tongue. In a statement issued after a meeting with three key representatives of the Chinese cultural community, who initiated a petition to express their concern about possible tweaks to the weighting given to Mother Tongue language, Minister Ng stressed that bilingualism has served Singapore well and will continue to be a cornerstone of our education system. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Education Minister Ng Eng Hen will meet the press on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 to address these concerns and outline the Government's thinking on the issue.