Press Releases

March 10, 2010

Strengthening Language Skills to Prepare Our Students Well for the Future

The Ministry of Education (MOE) will be enhancing the teaching of languages in schools, in order to build strong communication skills among our young, so as to prepare them well for the future. First, MOE will be enhancing teacher capacity to teach English Language (EL) and English-medium subjects, as well as promoting school-based programmes to improve English Language usage by students. Second, MOE will also be adopting differentiated approaches to the teaching of mother tongue languages (MTLs) to cater to students with different levels of ability and interest in MTLs. There will be stronger emphasis on helping students acquire proficiency in the MTLs, for communication and in daily living.

English Language

English is the lingua franca of international business, science and technology. The ability to write and speak English well therefore remains an essential skill to cultivate in our young.

English Language Institute of Singapore

Teachers are role models for students and key enablers of their language learning. MOE will therefore set up the English Language Institute of Singapore (ELIS) by 2011 to provide in-service training for EL and English-medium teachers. ELIS will not only tap on EL Master Teachers as trainers, but also recruit EL local and overseas experts to conduct training courses. ELIS will build up EL expertise and resources by working with external partners to offer customised training to meet the different needs of our teachers. ELIS will also be a “test-bed” for innovative ideas in EL teaching strategies and deepening teacher capability in EL teaching. In the longer term, ELIS aims to become a Centre of Excellence for the teaching of EL in Asia and beyond.

Whole School Approach

MOE will provide an EL Innovation Fund for each school to promote practices and activities that encourage the use of good English. This “whole school approach” aims to create a culture of good language usage within each school. Schools can supplement formal EL programmes for students with activities such as online games and quizzes, EL festivals, drama performances and public speaking courses to develop the competence and confidence of students in using Standard English. Schools may draw on the Fund to organise customised EL activities and courses for teachers. 40 schools will be provided with the EL Innovation Fund in the first phase of this “whole school approach”.

Language Facilitators in Primary Schools

Following the successful pilot in 20091, 25 more primary schools will be engaging Language Facilitators in 2010. These facilitators complement EL teaching and learning by conducting before- or after-school enrichment lessons in areas such as oral presentation, drama or story-telling. MOE plans to extend Language Facilitators to all primary schools over time.

Mother Tongue Languages

Bilingualism, a cornerstone of our education system, has stood our students in good stead, enabling them to function effectively in a competitive global environment. However, over time, the language environment in Singapore has evolved significantly. More Primary 1 pupils are coming from households where English is the dominant home language. To cater to students with a wider range of language abilities and from different home language backgrounds, MOE will explore more differentiated teaching approaches for MTLs to help students build strong language and communication skills.

The Chinese Language (CL) Review Committee led by the Director-General for Education (DGE) will set out the philosophy underlying the teaching of CL to different groups of learners in Singapore. The Committee will survey best practices in the teaching, learning and assessment of CL in and beyond Singapore to glean relevant learning points, and recommend the appropriate approach to customise CL learning for our CL learners of different abilities. Similar reviews of Malay Language (ML) and Tamil Language (TL), also led by DGE, are being carried out in tandem with the CL review. The Committees are expected to complete their work by year-end.

The goal is to evolve a curriculum framework and develop effective pedagogies that will engage the interest and maximise the learning of MTLs across three broad groups of students—the majority of children who come from EL-speaking homes, those with the ability and interest to do Higher MTL, and those with limited home language exposure and face difficulties in learning the language.

For the majority, the objective is to cultivate an interest in MTL, and to develop effective communication skills and confidence in using the MTL. For students who have the ability, MOE will help them develop fluency in all four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) and an understanding of the history and culture. For students with limited home exposure and face difficulties in learning the language, MOE will help them to acquire competency in oral communication for daily living.

As recommendations of the Review Committees will take time to be implemented, MOE will be making some intermediate changes over the next few years, to better align MTL teaching to the broad approach that will be adopted. The following outlines the intermediate changes to the learning and teaching of CL. The same principles will apply to ML and TL with due consideration to the specific context of each language.

Differentiated Approaches

Greater attention will be given to develop the listening and speaking skills of students. MOE will equip schools with a diagnostic tool to assess the CL oracy competence of Primary 1 students at the start of the school term. The information would enable teachers to better customise their teaching to meet the different learning needs of students. The diagnostic tool will be developed jointly by MOE and the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language in 2010. It will be piloted in some primary schools in 2011 and implemented in all primary schools from 2012.

Since 2007, all primary schools have been provided with two additional CL teachers to support the implementation of the new CL modular curriculum2. This provision has allowed schools to reduce the size of their Bridging classes. Moving forward, MOE will provide an additional CL teacher to primary schools which have a very large proportion of students from EL-speaking homes. Doing so enables these schools to run additional Bridging classes.

For schools with a large number of students from predominantly EL-speaking homes and who are facing difficulties in CL learning, there would be more extensive use of EL to teach CL. Greater curricular support and in-service training will be provided for teachers to use the bilingual approach3. A CL-EL glossary of selected vocabulary will also be provided by 2011 for students in the Chinese Language and Foundation Chinese courses.

Making MTL Relevant to Daily Living

To help students acquire confidence and proficiency in the use of MTL in daily living, like effective oral communication, reading in everyday contexts (e.g. news, movies, internet information) and functional writing, MOE will leverage on the use of ICT. MOE has developed various ICT resources to support MTL learning, including Xue Le (学乐) and Chinese Language Word Games (语文游戏乐翻天) for CL4, TINTA and Nadi for ML and Sangamam for TL5.

An ICT-based resource package constituting 10-15% of the MTL curriculum across all levels will be provided to all schools starting from 2011. At the primary level, the emphasis will be on using technology to enhance the acquisition of oral-aural skills and character recognition. At the secondary level, the focus will be on the use of search engines to source for information, collaborative learning platforms such as wikispace for discussions and blogs to document student reflections.

MOE will develop and implement a web-based MTL portal to support oracy learning for students from Primary Four to Pre-University levels. With such a portal, teachers can assign oral learning tasks to students who can upload their completed product in the form of audio/video files onto the portal. The portal enables self-, peer- and teacher-assessment. The portal will also be equipped with a computer-assisted speech assessment system for CL to enable students to practise and evaluate their oral performance at their own pace and convenience. The MTL portal will be rolled out to schools in phases from 2012.

In addition, there will be higher oracy weightings and greater use of authentic materials6 in the national examinations from 2012 for O/N/A Levels. The increase in oracy weightings range from 5% to 20% (see Table 1).

Table 1: Increase in oracy weightings from 2012
‘N’ Level MTL ‘O’ Level MTL ‘O’ Level MTL ‘B’ ‘A’ Level H1 MTL ‘A’ Level MTL ‘B’
Percentage increase in oracy 5% (from 35% to 40%) 5% (from 30% to 35%) 10% (from 40% to 50%) 10% (from 20% to 30%) 20% (from 30% to 50%)
Developing a Strong Cadre of SAP School Leaders

For students with the ability and interest to go further in the learning of CL, MOE will support them by enhancing the Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school environment. MOE will send potential and current SAP school leaders to leading schools and institutions in the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan for attachments. Such exchanges will help our SAP school leaders to deepen their understanding and appreciation of unique features in other systems and explore how they could be adapted to Singapore’s context.

Expanding Access to MTL ‘B’

MTL ‘B’ at the secondary level will be made more accessible to students who face exceptional difficulties in coping with MTL. MOE will set up 3 more7 CL ‘B’ school centres, so that there will be at least 2 centres in each zone (North, South, East, West). MOE Language Centre and Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre will also offer ML ‘B’ and TL ‘B’ respectively. In addition, MOE will relax the eligibility criterion to allow more students to take MTL ‘B’ at the ‘A’ Levels, from ‘E8 or below’ for their ‘O’ level MTL to ‘D7 or below’.

More examination sittings will be made available to ‘O’ and ‘A’ level MTL ‘B’ students. For ‘O’ level MTL ‘B’, there will be an additional sitting in June from 2012. For ‘A’ level MTL ‘B, there will be two additional sittings from 20128. These will be conducted at end-JC1, mid-JC2 (June) and end-JC2, similar to H1 MTL.

To meet the learning needs of MTL ‘B’ students, MOE will provide training to equip MTL ‘B’ teachers with appropriate teaching strategies to make learning more relevant and meaningful for these students.

MOE will continue to collaborate with relevant centres of expertise such as the National Institute of Education, the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language, the Malay Language Centre of Singapore and the Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre to undertake research in the learning and teaching of MTLs.

Footnotes:

  1. In 2009, MOE piloted the Language Facilitator Scheme in 5 primary schools—Bendemeer Primary, Canossa Convent Primary, Kheng Cheng School, St. Andrew’s Junior and St. Gabriel’s Primary.
  2. The new primary CL modular curriculum structure consists of the Bridging, Core and Enrichment Modules. It has been fully implemented across all levels from 2010.
  3. The bilingual approach refers to the selective use of the child’s first language to teach a new language.
  4. Xue Le (学乐) (http://xuele.edumall.sg/) and the Chinese Language Word Games (语文游戏乐翻天) (http://game.iflashbook.com/) are online ICT resources for students to learn and consolidate the learning of characters and words.
  5. Nadi (http://nadi.edumall.sg/) is an online Malay language and culture magazine. TINTA (http://tinta.edumall.sg/) and Sangamam (http://sangamam.edumall.sg/tamilosai/slot/u113/index.html) are portals hosting podcasts, vodcasts and interactive games to support the learning of ML and TL respectively.
  6. These authentic materials refer to the use of real-world situational contexts such as notices, advertisements, news reports, brochures and dialogues.
  7. There are currently 53 secondary schools offering school-based CL ‘B’ and 5 school centres offering it to students from nearby schools. The new CL ‘B’ school centres will be at Fuchun Secondary, St Andrew’s Secondary and Assumption English School.
  8. Currently, ‘A’ level MTL ‘B’ students can take the examination only at the end of JC2.