Singapore—In Parliament on Tuesday (March 3) Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Chen Show Mao proposed that the Ministry of Education (MOE) make Malay language learning required in primary schools.
The WP MP filed a Committee of Supply (COS) Cut towards this end.
This, however, was rejected by Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s Education Minister.
“I think it is better that we continue to emphasise the learning of a student’s own MTL (Mother Tongue language). As it is, many students are already finding that quite challenging, but we have been encouraging students to learn the language of another community at a conversational level.”
However, he added, “Today about 60 per cent of primary schools, 40 per cent of secondary schools… offer conversational Malay and Chinese, and we are encouraging more schools to do so, and more schools will do so.”
This is not the first time that Mr Chen has put forward a proposal concerning Malay language learning, having asked the MOE both in 2018 and 2017 if it could explore the possibility of encouraging pupils to reach a basic level of proficiency in the language.
Mr Ong, in answer to Mr Chen, said they did not think his proposed suggestion “is appropriate”.
At present, more than fifty percent of primary schools and forty percent of secondary school have courses in conversational Malay and Chinese.
But the Education Minister did recognize the importance for students to learn different languages from the region. He said that the Ministry has taken more steps toward developing a richer appreciation of Asia and incorporating this to the school curriculum.
He added that moving forward, students can look forward to more educational trips to different countries in Asia, and even be encouraged to learn a third language should they show that they have an affinity for it.
The Education Minister said, “We will organise more trips to Asian countries, and encourage students to go on them. Students from the West are flocking here to experience Asia, because of the cultural diversity and exciting economic opportunities. So our students should do so too. This is our own backyard and here we always have a natural competitive advantage.”
Beginning with learning Thai and Vietnamese, conversational courses in these languages will begin to be offered along with trips to these countries.
He said that putting these two together would make sure that “learning is more meaningful and can be immediately applied”. -/TISG