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Old 04-22-2010, 01:58 PM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Default Does MT have any worth in the eyes of society?

I'm pretty dismayed by the news that Mother Tongue (MT) is getting sidelined (again) by the education system. I understand the rationale, but I disagree with it.

Seeing these changes makes me wonder; does Singapore society value MT? Is the government really committed to a bilingual society?
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Old 04-23-2010, 12:36 AM   #2
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I agree with ObsidianShades. The rationales can be understood. If they are going to change the weightage of MT in psle, the efforts that teachers put in in changing the chinese syllabus etc earlier on will be wasted. If ever one day, the society finds maths or science difficult to pick up, are they going to lower the weightage of these subjects in psle just like what they do to MT?

Also, if weightage of MT is lowered, MT will perhaps be of little importance/significance to the eyes of parents and students. How are the teachers going to instill interest in students when it comes to learning MT when MT are of lower weightage in psle? Since it holds little importance, there may be a day where dropping MT be an option to those that find it difficult to pick up MT.

How can a bilingual society exist when MT is sidelined?
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Old 04-23-2010, 12:01 PM   #3
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: California, Los Angeles
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I sent this today to the MOE online feedback system, and I encourage all like-minded concerned citizen to do the same at Have your voice heard!

My feedback:

Dear Minister (Dr Ng Eng Hen),

I'm a Singaporean currently studying at UCLA for a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics.

I'm immensely disappointed and disheartened at the recent news on the review to lower MT weightage purportedly due to the disadvantage it may cause students who are not as comfortable with the language. I find this argument extremely one-sided as the same can be said for students that comes from Chinese-speaking families.

Perhaps the consideration is that the proportion of English-speaking families are on the rise and will soon be the majority. Yet this is a result of years of policies (such as this) that undermines the importance of mother tongue (the irony of calling it mother tongue when so little importance is ascribed to it). Being a scholar of linguistics, I know for a fact that mastery of a language has less to do with intelligence, and everything to do with providing a constructive environment. The inability of students to uphold our bilingual policy does not come from the burden of acquiring 2 languages, but from the one-sided language environment a student has. Lowering the weightage of MT will not motivate students to be more interested in the language, only to further perpetuate the myth that Chinese is unimportant on the global scale.

Yes, on the global scale, the rise of the Chinese language is inevitable. Being in the US and in California, I see first hand how middle and high schools here are anxious to acquire Chinese teachers, how colleges are shifting the focus of Asian Departments from Japanese to Chinese, and how hordes of Chinese heritage learners are protesting the limited enrollment spaces in Chinese classes, all of them instinctively knowing they have disadvantaged themselves by not focusing on their heritage language and missing their critical period of learning. Yet in Singapore, given the advantage we have?/had?, policies such as the one being considered continue to undercut a natural resource our distinct environment has provided us, the environmental context to be truly bilingual.

Review of the MT weightage at the primary level is especially devastating, because it goes to the roots of language learning by encouraging 6-12 year olds to pay less attention to a certain language, making it almost impossible for this group to pick up the language again later on in life even if they want to.

If the concern is that we may be missing out on a lot of gifted students at the PSLE level due to their poor MT skills, I'm sure there are other policy changes or alterations that can help us capture these students. For example, special considerations can be given to students with exceptional Maths and Science scores. Lowering the MT weightage is simply compounding our problem of producing pseudo-bilingual students that will not be able to compete on the global level.

I hope this news of a review is simply a ploy to gain election votes from the English-speaking Singaporeans and will not come to pass.
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Old 04-25-2010, 04:52 PM   #4
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I feel a need to also express something in Chinese (in Unicode UTF-8):

我必须说我到了美国之后,确实在很 方面(且是时时刻刻)都因双语优势 获利。前些年我是在理性上了解并强 调双语教育的,但这段时间我却是因 身体验而增加了在感情上对双语方针 拥护。在求学的过程中,我所获的最 大利益就是能够快速阅读且能深入理 学术性高的英语哲理文章。又因为同 拥有一定程度的中文能力,在进行研 究时能够把英文文章内的精华快速正 地转移运用到中文的语境内,发现汉 言中相应有趣的语言现象。此外,中 英能力对教导老外如何理解汉语更是 这里中文教师中少有的武器,也是在 国进行汉语言研究的关键优势,相信 也将成为我求职时的亮点。我的经验 诉我,全球化的社会趋势奠定了要拥 英文能力的必然性,但这仅仅是成为 世界公民的必要条件。能够精通另一 “炙手可热”的语言才能算得上是真 的优势。

我觉得我国政府在培育所谓的双语人 上有两大盲点:一、错误地认为拥有 小撮双语人才就已足矣。这只能做到 提供行政便利,焉能达到提升国力的 的;二、严重低估了“精通”的含义 认为能讲能写就是“精通”。殊不知 要双语成为优势,文化底蕴是必不可 的关键。

Last edited by UCLA_Lim; 04-25-2010 at 04:58 PM.
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