you're reading...
Musings, My Paper

Improving Language Education And Bilingualism In Singapore

Anecdotally, most individuals will lament that the current language standards in schools are less than impressive, and that significantly more can be done not just to raise interest amongst students, but also to fundamentally rethink how languages are being taught by educators in institutions. More often than not, strategies implemented by and publicised in the media focus disproportionately upon the former shortcoming – that is, premising methodologies upon the fact that students are woefully uninspired – with newfangled technology-based solutions and innovative teaching-learning pedagogies. Unfortunately, all these efforts would simply go down the drain if the Ministry of Education (MOE) and corresponding stakeholders do not recognise inherent problems with linguistic education.

The foundations for language – especially for mother tongues – are not structured sturdily; therefore, greater emphasis has to be placed on strengthening pre-school education.

In my perspective, the challenges and the appropriate proposals are threefold. First, the foundations for language – especially for mother tongues – are not structured sturdily; therefore, greater emphasis has to be placed on strengthening pre-school education. Second, standardised tests and examinations for the languages overwhelming favour writing and comprehension abilities; hence, wider diversification is desired so as to incorporate essential reading, listening and speaking skills. Third, students are bored to tears by the uninspiring and monotonous study materials used to complement the syllabus; consequently, the MOE and schools must be more judicious, flexible, and less rigid in their selection of books and topics for study and discussion in classrooms.

Practice makes perfect; thus, it is no coincidence that students who have had the privilege of being actively exposed to dual languages at home often excel in school and eventually become effectively bilingual. The most straightforward manner in which these teaching-learning measures can be proliferated would be to review and improve the processes adopted in various nurseries and kindergartens. This can be coupled with the official creation of a free-for-all online repository-portal, where resources – such as worksheets, guides and activity planners – can be uploaded for reference and usage by parents. Opportunities are plentiful: strategic partnerships with the National Library Board (NLB) can yield tailored reading lists for different age-groups, and provide additional read-a-long sessions for households within the neighbourhood.

Emphasis on writing-based techniques must also be reduced in the long-run. Particularly for languages like Chinese, starting off with pedantic spelling practises, the memorisation of characters or handwriting exercises would be a recipe for language disaster. Even if eventual national examinations are predicated upon written elements, teachers must be proactive in the incorporation of reading and speaking elements to value-add lessons.

Traditionally, language education has relied heavily – sometimes solely – upon textbook materials per se. The importance of raising interest and proficiency in reading-comprehension and analysis cannot be understated; as students at a more progressive level begin to appreciate the benefits of fluent communication, they will naturally have a greater impetus to heighten their engagement with the language. Inspiring and relevant reading resources will also get them to independently read and learn more. Rather than just having newspaper clippings or morals-laden stories, incorporate current affairs debates or commentaries, satires and even musical lyrics to make the reading experience a truly wholesome, colourful and meaningful one.

A version of this article was published in My Paper.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


5 thoughts on “Improving Language Education And Bilingualism In Singapore

  1. 46 years after Independence.

    Still cannot teach a 2nd Language properly.

    The Ministry of Education is a joke.
    It’s a training center for MIW high flyers.

    Posted by What A Joke | August 12, 2011, 1:28 pm


  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 12 Aug 2011 « The Singapore Daily - August 12, 2011

  2. Pingback: Singapore’s Education System: A Dialogue With Minister Heng Swee Keat « guanyinmiao's musings - November 9, 2011

  3. Pingback: Mr. Eugene Chiong And His Take On Singapore’s Education System: My Perspectives « guanyinmiao's musings - March 5, 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow guanyinmiao's musings on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,404 other followers


  • "The Democratic debate over free college is in fact part of a deeper disagreement about how best to structure a wel… twitter.com/i/web/status/1… 39 minutes ago
  • RT @howcomeyousmell: I like how ppl talk about details of the afterlife with so much certainty. lol bro how tf do u know? ur just guessing… 47 minutes ago
  • RT @ScottMAustin: WeWork's co-founder/CEO Adam Neumann has cashed out at least $700 million through stock and debt ahead of a possible IPO… 1 hour ago
  • RT @ryanclinton: I recognize there are important things happening in the world right now but our baby is showing pictures of dogs to our do… 1 hour ago
  • RT @dog_rates: This is Bella. She really enjoys the flowers, but is often too short to see them all. Easy solution. 12/10 enjoy the view sw… 1 hour ago
%d bloggers like this: