More students to learn mother tongue creatively through Language Elective Programme
Two-year programme currently taught in selected JCs to be offered in 15 secondary schools and more JCs from next year: Ong Ye Kung
A two-year programme that uses creative ways to teach Chinese, Malay or Tamil literature through immersion trips and camps will be offered in 15 secondary schools from next year.
Now available at seven junior colleges, the Language Elective Programme (LEP) will also be expanded to 10 JCs.
The enhancement is aimed at getting students to better appreciate mother tongue languages (MTL) and promote bilingualism in schools.
Announcing this at the Teachers' Conference yesterday, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said learning languages has economic, cognitive and cultural benefits and plays a crucial role in a country's cultural identity.
While English was adopted as a common working language for practical reasons, Mr Ong noted that the cultures of the English-speaking world are not our culture.
"We cannot just adopt someone else's culture. We need to learn our own mother tongue languages to understand the cultures of our respective communities," he told about 2,000 attendees at the Singapore Expo.
"Then, over a long period of time, we collectively draw from our respective ancestral cultures to build our own unique Singapore identity."
While the percentage of families using an MTL as the main language at home has dropped, the percentage of bilingual families has risen from 80 per cent to 90 per cent over the last 20 years.
Mr Ong said more schools will offer conversational mother tongue programmes in the next one to two years to open them to more students.
The learning of third languages such as French and Japanese will also be made more flexible and open to students beyond just the top 10 per cent. More regional languages such as Vietnamese and Thai will be added in future.
As part of the LEP, students can take part in enrichment programmes such as overseas immersion trips, local camps and meet-the-author sessions.
To be eligible for the LEP, they must do well in their MTL.
O-level students enrolled in LEP-Secondary must sit the O-level literature exam while students in the Integrated Programme must study a school-based MTL literature subject.
The 15 secondary schools will each offer one mother tongue LEP. For example, nine schools, which include Anglican High, Dunman High, Hwa Chong Institution and Nanyang Girls' High, will offer Chinese LEP.
Noting they are mostly Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools, Mr Ong said: "It is natural to start with these schools, but in time, we should extend to more non-SAP schools to broaden participation."
Anderson Secondary, Bukit Panjang Government High and Tanjong Katong Secondary will offer the Malay LEP, and Commonwealth Secondary, Riverside Secondary and Yishun Town Secondary will offer the Tamil LEP.
The three new JCs are Raffles Institution (Malay), Anderson Serangoon JC (Tamil) and National JC (Malay and Tamil).
NJC is one of two JCs offering two mother tongue LEPs, the other being Jurong Pioneer JC (Chinese and Malay).
Mr Ong said these initiatives will signal that LEP is not only for a select group of students, but for a larger group of students who should feel confident that they can do it.
The Chinese LEP was introduced in 1990 to Hwa Chong JC and Temasek JC, and the Malay LEP was introduced to three other JCs from 2001.
Classically trained musician and composer Syafiqah 'Adha Sallehin, 29, who took the Malay LEP in Tampines JC, found learning her mother tongue made her more aware of her culture and identity as a Malay, which helps in her work.
As music director of ensemble group Gendang Akustika, she creates music that blends a traditional Malay voice with contemporary musical styles.
She told TNP: "Studying the language really encompasses the spirit of a Malay identity. It made me appreciate that the culture and language was intrinsically a part of me."
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