Singapore: A unique case study

Singapore is a multicultural and multilingual nation with a unique approach to language. Although we have four main languages, English is the unifying lingua franca and is the language in which children are taught. In school, it is compulsory for students to also learn a mother tongue language. There are several reasons for this. After the war, schools were brought under government control who realised that a common language was needed to facilitate communication among the different cultural and dialect groups. Furthermore, not only does it help students connect with the culture and traditions of the language, it also helps them master the English language.

Their government’s belief in this benefits of multilingualism is seen in their own personal lived. The late Mr Lee Kwan Yew, who was born to English-speaking parents, motivated himself to learn Mandarin and Malay. His son, the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also learnt Mandarin and Malay. During both their terms in office, they used to give their national day speeches in English, Malay and Mandarin.

Today, the range of languages spoken in Singapore has increased drastically. This is not all due to the diverse population in Singapore. In secondary school, students are given the opportunity to study a third language, such as Mandarin (for non-Chinese), Malay (for non-Malays), Indonesian (for non-Malays), Arabic, Japanese (only for Chinese), French or German. We have also increased the number of mother tongue languages deemed acceptable in lieu of the three main languages. The newly recognised mother tongue languages include Urdu, Hindi and Malayalam.

The improvements to Singapore’s language policy don’t just stop there. The way languages are taught and used are regularly revised so that students stay relevant. The government has also provided more funding for mother tongue initiatives. In 2011, the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism began. Its aim was to aid the Ministry of Education (MOE) in promoting the teaching and learning of the English language and the Mother Tongue languages.

Currently, foreign languages are taught outside of normal school curriculum. Every week, students commute to one of the two MOE Language Centre campuses. It’s a unique institution as it not only complements normal secondary and post-secondary education, it is also an MOE institution that focuses solely on teaching foreign languages. The MOELC also caters to different types of students. Namely, those who are learning a third language and those who are learning a foreign language as their mother tongue in lieu. The alumni of this school are poised to be powerful instruments and players in Singapore’s globalisation policy simply because they have widened their communication capabilities.

Agape School of Education understands the importance of learning another language. Our unique teaching approach incorporates language skills and culture to facilitate a better understanding of the language. Our curriculum is tailored to follow the MOELC curriculum and we adhere to their linguistic standards. This way, our students are always in sync with their school work and there is no gap in their learning process. Our small group sizes ensure the students get the quality time and interaction they need in class. We also offer private classes that are customisable to the individual student’s needs. Contact us today for more information!

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