Mother Tongue Language Policy

Our Mother Tongue Language (MTL) policy requires all students who are Singaporeans or Singapore Permanent Residents to study their respective official MTL: Chinese, Malay and Tamil. A non-Tamil Indian may choose to offer as his/her MTL: (a) Tamil, or (b) a non-Tamil Indian Language such as Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu.

Students will offer their respective MTLs at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and the GCE ‘N’, ‘O’ and ‘A’ level examinations.

Nonetheless, there is flexibility in the application of this policy for students who have been away from Singapore’s school system for some years and who have not kept up with the study of their MTL. Students may apply for exemption from studying their official MTL or to study a non-official language such as French, German or Japanese in lieu of MTL. Applications should be made through the school and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. My child has been abroad for some time. Is he required to study a Mother Tongue Language?

    Returning Singaporeans who join a local school mid-stream can apply to the Ministry of Education through the school for exemption from studying their official Mother Tongue Language or to study a non-official language such as French, German or Japanese in lieu of Mother Tongue Language. The applications will be considered on a case by case basis.

  2. My child has been abroad for some years and has just rejoined primary school mid-stream. He has been exempted from studying Mother Tongue Language. I would like him to study his Mother Tongue Language but not take the Mother Tongue Language at PSLE?

    Yes, a student who rejoined primary school mid-stream and obtained exemption from taking the Mother Tongue Language at PSLE may attend the Mother Tongue Language lessons if he so wishes.

  3. Would pupils who are exempted from offering Mother Tongue Language at PSLE be at a disadvantage as compared to those who offer the subject at PSLE?

    No. These pupils’ PSLE aggregate scores would be adjusted so that they are neither disadvantaged nor advantaged.

  4. My child has already been exempted from offering Mother Tongue Language in primary school. Will I have to re-apply for Mother Tongue exemption when he/she is promoted to Secondary 1?

    No, you need not re-apply for his Mother Tongue exemption when your child is promoted to Secondary 1. Your child will continue to be exempted from offering Mother Tongue.

  5. Will a Pre-University student be exempted from the Mother Tongue requirement at the GCE ‘A’ level examinations?

    Students exempted from the Mother Tongue Language at the GCE ‘O’ level examination will be exempted from the Mother Tongue Language at the GCE ‘A’ level examination. Those who are allowed to learn a non-official language in lieu of Mother Tongue Language will continue to offer the subject at the GCE ‘A’ level examination.

    Students who have been approved for exemption from taking a Mother Tongue Language or another language in place of an official Mother Tongue Language are deemed to have met the Mother Tongue threshold requirements for university admission.