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17 November 2005



Malay and Tamil Languages: Engaging Students through Lively Classrooms and Responsive Curricula


The Government Accepts Recommendations of the Malay Language and the Tamil Language Curriculum and Pedagogy Review Committees


1.             The Government has accepted the key recommendations proposed by the Malay Language Curriculum and Pedagogy Review Committee (MLCPRC) and the Tamil Language Curriculum and Pedagogy Review Committee (TLCPRC), chaired by Associate Professor Dr Hadijah Rahmat and Dr N Varaprasad, Chief Executive of National Library Board respectively.


Vision for Malay and Tamil Language Learning


2.             The MLCPRC has articulated a broad cultural vision of developing each Malay student to become a person with the qualities of “Arif Budiman” – a learned person who contributes to society. The aim is for teachers to bring about greater engagement in Malay language and culture, and its continuous remaking, in the context of multiracial Singapore. Details of the MLCPRC’s vision can be found at Annex A.


3.             The TLCPRC’s vision is for Tamil to be a living language among future generations of Tamil Singaporeans, and a vibrant part of Singapore’s identity as a multicultural, global city. The Tamil Singaporean will be able to speak English and Tamil so that he can communicate effectively in a multilingual society. Details of the TLCPRC’s vision can be found at Annex B.


Shifts in Home Language


4.             Similar to Chinese Language (CL) students, there is a generational shift in the home language of students entering Primary One. In the Malay community the proportion of Primary One students using English as their main language at home has increased from 17% in 1996 to 28% in 2005. For TL students at Primary One, 55% come from homes using English as the main language in 2005. (See Annex C)


5.             Nevertheless the vast majority of both ML and TL students, including those from English speaking homes, feel that it is important to study their mother tongue and like doing so. (See Annex D)


Need for Differentiated Instruction


6.             The MLCPRC and TLCPRC recognised the need to customise instruction, especially in the first few years of primary school, given that increasing numbers of students entering Primary One use English at home, or a combination of English and the mother tongue.


7.               For CL, MOE is implementing a modular approach as recommended by the Chinese Language Curriculum and Pedagogy Review Committee, where students attend core modules as well as either bridging modules or enrichment modules depending on their starting abilities in the language. The principle recommended by the MLCPRC and the TLCPRC is similar, of customised teaching strategies to suit students of differing abilities. However, the implementation methods will differ as there are smaller numbers of ML and TL students in most schools.


8.             It will be less practical for ML and TL to have a structured modular approach in which students of different abilities are pulled out of class for separate lessons. Schools will be encouraged to adopt a flexible approach including the implementation of differentiated instruction within the same class. Schools with more than one ML or TL class of students per level could choose to band students in different classes according to their abilities in the language.


9.             Some schools are already adopting differentiated instruction within the same class. The Committees have also observed similar practices being effective in schools abroad, within ML classes in Malaysia and TL classes in India.


10.            The syllabus, teacher’s guide and training courses should equip teachers to carry out differentiated instruction. The MLCPRC further recommended that bridging materials be provided for ML students who need extra help.


11.         The MLCPRC recommended a responsive curriculum structure through the use of Tahap (levels of achievement)[1] at key stages to reflect differentiated learning outcomes for students of different abilities in each of the language skills.


Importance of Speaking the Language


12.         The MLCPRC has observed a decline in the standard of spoken Malay. Similarly the TLCPRC observed that although more students were studying TL to higher levels, they were not comfortable using the language in daily life.


13.         Both Committees have recommended greater emphasis on developing oral skills. This is particularly so in the lower primary years. The aim is for students to develop the ability to speak well, and spontaneously, in a variety of situations.


14.         The TLCPRC recommends a shift towards a functional approach to the teaching of TL in Singapore. Following extensive feedback and consultation with parents, teachers and community organisations, the TLCPRC recommends an approach aimed at helping students acquire Spoken Tamil[2] instead of a sole focus on Formal Tamil. Students need to be able to speak Tamil comfortably and in a form suitable to everyday situations so that they develop the capacity to use the language after their school years.  The TLCPRC recommends that Spoken Tamil be the medium of conversation in classrooms between teachers and students and in oral examinations.


Other Key Recommendations


Engaging Instructional Materials


15.         Both Committees recommended that textbooks and other instructional materials should be made more interesting and engaging to students. The TLCPRC has recommended that the textbooks reflect a stronger Singaporean (as distinct from Indian) context to enable students to make connections between their own lives, local terms and vocabulary.


16.         Both Committees have recommended that supplementary readers that appeal to students of various ages be made available to help them build a strong foundation in reading.  MOE schools and community organisations should partner in sourcing for a richer and more interesting range of supplementary reading materials for students.


17.         The MLCPRC has expressed the need for more open-ended and higher order thinking activities so that students can explore, examine and own elements of their culture. It also recommended that teachers should teach cultural content to their students in ways that the students would find appealing and relevant to their own experience. In addition, the MLCPRC proposed that ML learning should be enhanced with the use of IT.


Examinations and Assessments


18.         Both Committees recommended that the emphasis on speaking and listening skills be carried into assessments and examinations. These include a higher weighting on assessing speaking and listening skills within internal schools assessments at the Lower Primary levels.


19.         The Committees each recommended that a school-based oral assessment component should be introduced at the PSLE and ‘O’ Level Mother Tongue Language (MTL) examinations with a 10% weighting.  The Committees also recommended that oral assessment be included as part of the Higher ML (HML) and Higher TL (HTL) ‘O’ Level examinations, which currently only comprise written examinations. (As detailed at para 32, MOE will study the feasibility of these two sets of recommendations.)


20.         The TLCPRC proposed that, to encourage students to use Spoken Tamil in TL classrooms, oral examinations at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) should be geared towards Spoken Tamil from 2010.


Special Programmes and Resources


21.         The MLCPRC recommended an expansion of the Elective Programme in Malay Language for Secondary Schools (EMAS), and the Malay Language Elective Programme (MLEP).


22.         The TLCPRC recommended the establishment of additional TL centres[3]and the enhancement of Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre’s (UPTLC) role in supporting schools with online resources and in professional development of TL teachers.


23.         Both Committees have recommended that Malay Literature and Tamil Literature be included as electives under the Combined Humanities subjects at ‘O’ level.


24.         The MLCPRC has recommended introducing an elective module at the polytechnic level in Malay studies. This module could provide useful knowledge for students who wish to pursue a teaching career. The TLCPRC has also recommended that elective modules in TL communication studies related to business, media and culture be explored at the polytechnic level.


Teacher Training and Development


25.         Both Committees have identified teachers as key to enthusing students in learning the language. They have recommended specific measures to enhance both pre-service and in-service programmes to ensure that teachers are well equipped to deliver the revised curriculum.


Community Involvement


26.           The Committees each recognised the important role that community and media organisations play in promoting the use of language in society, and in creating interesting opportunities to use ML and TL within and beyond schools.


27.         Both Committees recommended that that MOE and schools should continue to collaborate with community and media organisations to create environments conducive for the use of ML and TL.


Implementation of Recommendations


28.         The Government accepts the key recommendations of the MLCPRC and the TLCPRC.


29.         The new ML and TL curriculum will be implemented at Primary One to Primary Four levels in 2008, followed by Primary 5 in 2009 and Primary 6 in 2010.  By 2010, all three MTLs would have the new curriculum in place at the primary level[4]. The revised PSLE formats for the three MTLs will be implemented in 2010.


30.         As communicated at the start of this year[5], there will be interim changes in the PSLE and ‘O’ Level examinations starting from 2006 in all three MTLs. The oral examination weighting is being increased by 5% - from 30% to 35% at PSLE and from 25% to 30% at ‘O’ Level. The other interim changes comprise removing sections which require recall of discrete words and phrases, and instead increasing testing of vocabulary, grammar and proverbs, in meaningful contexts.


31.         Schools will make the pedagogical shift towards Spoken Tamil in classrooms gradually, beginning with Primary One and Primary Two in 2006.  Spoken Tamil will be introduced in the oral examinations beginning from the 2010 PSLE, by which time students will have been adequately prepared. Formal Tamil will continue to be used in written examinations.


32.         MOE will study the feasibility of having a school-based oral examination as part of PSLE and ‘O’ level, to ensure that there can be comparability of assessment standards across schools and across the three MTLs. There are also significant resource implications, in terms of teachers’ time, with the implementation of school-based examinations. MOE will similarly study the need and feasibility of introducing oral components in HML and HTL at ‘O’ level.


33.         To encourage more students to learn ML at a higher level, MOE will start a second EMAS centre in Tanjong Katong Secondary School and a second MLEP centre in Innova JC from the start of next year.


34.         MOE will set up another three TL centres in Marsiling Secondary School, Pasir Ris Crest Secondary School and Jurong West Secondary School, in addition to the 9 existing centres. The additional TL centres will provide more convenient access to students in schools which do not have adequate TL students to conduct their own classes. In addition, MOE will also work with UPTLC and the industry to develop online resources to support students in their TL learning.


35.         The three new centres would also offer HTL to enhance opportunities to study TL at a higher level. Currently UPTLC is the only designated centre offering HTL.


36.         MOE will develop and implement the new syllabi for Malay Literature and Tamil Literature as electives under the Combined Humanities, in 2008 if there is demand.


37.         MOE will set up Committees to strengthen collaboration between the Malay and Tamil media and community organisations and schools. MOE will set up a ML Learning and Promotion Committee and a TL Learning and Promotion Committee to create conducive environments for students for the learning of ML and TL respectively.




38.         The MLCPRC and TLCPRC were formed by MOE in December 2004 to conduct a comprehensive review of the teaching and learning of the respective languages in our schools.   The scope of the reviews included:

·         syllabus and instructional materials

·         pedagogy and teacher training

·         assessment and examination 

·         the community’s involvement in providing a supportive environment to  



39.         The MLCPRC and the TLCPRC comprised academics, school leaders, teachers as well as representatives from the private sector and community organisations.  The composition of the MLCPRC and TLCPRC members is at Annexes E and F respectively.


40.         In drawing up its recommendations, both Committees studied language trends to better understand the future needs of ML and TL users in both local and global contexts.  They took into consideration feedback and views from various stakeholders, obtained through public consultations and dialogue sessions with students, teachers, school leaders, parents, academics, and Malay and Tamil community organisations.   The MLCPRC also drew insights from a detailed survey of more than 7,000 participants, school visits and a study trip to Malaysia while the TLCPRC gathered comprehensive feedback from 2,600 participants, school visits and overseas study trips to Malaysia and India.


Annex A


Vision for Malay Language


Arif Budiman


The learned person who contributes to society


Insan berpengetahuan yang menyumbang kepada masyarakat




To contribute creatively to Malay language and culture in readiness for the challenges and opportunities of a changing world


Membina bahasa dan budaya Melayu secara kreatif dalam kesediaan menghadapi cabaran dan peluang dalam dunia yang berubah





To deepen understanding and appreciation of Malay language and culture in furtherance of nation building


Mendalami dan menghargai bahasa dan budaya Melayu dalam pelanjutan pembangunan negara





To know and understand Malay language and culture as part of multiracial Singapore


Mengenali dan memahami bahasa dan budaya Melayu sebagai sebahagian daripada masyarakat majmuk Singapura





Annex B


Vision for Tamil Language


The TLCPRC’s vision is for Tamil to be a living language among future generations of Tamil Singaporeans, and a vibrant part of Singapore’s identity as a multicultural, global city. 


(a)     The Tamil Singaporean will be able to speak both English and Tamil so

         that he can communicate effectively in a multi-lingual society;


(b)     Any two Tamil Singaporeans will be comfortable conversing in Tamil, and

         will readily do so;


(c)     The Tamil Singaporean will be at ease using Tamil at home and will

         communicate with his children in Tamil;


(d)     The Tamil Singaporean will be able to read the daily Tamil newspaper and  understand the radio or TV news bulletins; and,


(e)     In each generation, there will be a group of Tamil Singaporeans who are able to go far in the language, and contribute in areas such as Tamil media and internet, literature, theatre, education and research and be internationally recognised.


Annex C


Trends in Home Language of Primary One Students


Mother Tongue

Dominant Home Language

% of Primary One students




























  Source: MOE Survey 2005



Annex D

Proportion of Students Who Like Learning Mother Tongue


Mother Tongue













Source: MOE Survey 2005



Annex E


Composition of the Malay Language

Curriculum and Pedagogy Review Committee 



Mr Hawazi Daipi

Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Manpower

Setiausaha Parlimen Kanan, Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kementerian Tenaga Manusia



Associate Professor Dr Hadijah Rahmat

Lecturer, Asian Languages and Cultures, National Institute of Education

Pensyarah, Bahasa dan Budaya Asia, Institut Pendidikan Nasional






Dr Mohd Mukhlis Abu Bakar

Assistant Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures, National Institute of Education

Penolong Profesor, Bahasa dan Budaya Asia, Institut Pendidikan Nasional


Dr Noor Aisha Abdul Rahman

Assistant Professor, Department of Malay Studies, National  University  of Singapore

Penolong Profesor, Jabatan Pengajian Melayu, Universiti Nasional Singapura


Associate Professor Dr Shaharuddin Maaruf

Head, Department of Malay Studies, National  University  of Singapore

Ketua, Jabatan Pengajian Melayu, Universiti Nasional Singapura




Mr Ibrahim Hassan

Executive Editor, Head of Malay News and Current Affairs, MediaCorp News Pte Ltd

Editor Eksekutif, Ketua Berita Melayu dan Hal Ehwal Semasa, MediaCorp News Pte Ltd


Mr Mohd Raman Daud

Assistant to Editor, Berita Harian and Berita Minggu, Singapore  Press Holdings

Penolong Editor, Berita Harian dan Berita Minggu, Singapore Press Holdings





School Leaders and Educationists


Mdm Abidah Bibi K A Marikar

Head of Dept/Mother Tongue Languages, SiglapSecondary School

Ketua Jabatan/Bahasa Ibunda, Sekolah Menengah Siglap


Mdm Aini Maarof

Principal, First  Toa  Payoh  Secondary School

Pengetua, Sekolah Menengah First Toa Payoh


Mr Mohamed Naim Daipi

ML Master Teacher, Cluster 3

Guru Pakar, Kelompok 3


Mdm Moliah Hashim

Principal, Northland  Primary School

Pengetua, Sekolah Rendah Northland


Ms Siti Fazila Ahmad

Head of Dept/Mother Tongue Languages, CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent

Ketua Jabatan/Bahasa Ibunda, CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent


Mdm Siti Hidayah Mohamad Taha

Subject Head/Malay Language, St Anthony’s Canossian  Primary School

Ketua Subjek/Bahasa Melayu, Sekolah Rendah St Anthony’s Canossian


Mr Wan Imran Mohd Woojdy

Principal, Boon  Lay  Garden  Primary School

Pengetua, Sekolah  Rendah   Boon   Lay   Garden


MOE Officials


Ms Ho Peng

Director, Curriculum Planning and Development Division, MOE

Pengarah, Bahagian Perancangan dan Pengembangan Kurikulum, Kementerian Pendidikan


Mr Toh Poh Guan

Director, Assessment and Research Division, SingaporeExaminations and Assessment Board (SEAB)

Pengarah, Bahagian Penilaian dan Penyelidikan, Lembaga Peperiksaan dan Penilaian Singapura



Annex F


Composition of the Tamil Language

Curriculum and Pedagogy Review Committee



Mr S Iswaran   திரு எஸ் ஈஸ்வரன்

Deputy Speaker of Parliament and MP for West Coast GRC

நாடாளுமன்றத் துணை நாயகர்                                                                   நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர், வெஸ்ட் கோஸ்ட் குழுத்தொகுதி 


Mr K Shanmugam   திரு க ஷண்முகம்

Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC

நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர்,  செம்பவாங் குழுத்தொகுதி 



Dr N Varaprasad   முனைவர்   ந வரப்பிரசாத்

Chief Executive, National Library Board

லைமை   நிர்வாகி,  தேசியநூலக வாரியம்






Dr Chitra Sankaran   முனைவர் சித்ரா சங்கரன்

Assistant Professor, Department of English Language & Literature, National  University  of  Singapore

துணைப் பேராசிரியர், ஆங்கில மொழி மற்றும் இலக்கியத் துறை,         சிங்கப்பூர் தேசிய பல்கலைக்கழகம்


Dr Seetha Lakshmi  முனைவர் சீதாலட்சுமி

Assistant Professor, Head of Tamil Unit, Asian Languages and Cultures, National Institute of Education

துணைப் பேராசிரியர், தலைவர்,  தமிழ்ப் பகுதி,                                               ஆசிய மொழிகள் மற்றும் பண்பாட்டுத் துறை,  தேசியக் கல்விக் கழகம்


Dr Vanithamani Saravanan   முனைவர் வனிதாமணி சரவணன்

Associate Professor, Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice, National Institute of Education

ணைப் பேராசிரியர்,   ஆசிரியவியல் மற்றும் பயிற்சி குறித்த ஆய்வு மையம், தேசியக் கல்விக் கழகம்




Dr Chitra Rajaram   முனைவர் சித்ரா ராஜாராம்

Editor, Tamil Murasu, Singapore  Press Holdings

Managing Director, GolinHarris International Pte Ltd (w.e.f 17 Sep 05)

ஆசிரியர், தமிழ் முரசு, சிங்கப்பூர் பிரஸ் ஹோல்டிங்ஸ் பிரைவெட் லிமிட்டெட்,

நிர்வாக அதிகாரி, கோலின்ஹேரிஸ் இன்டர்நேஷனல் பிரைவெட் லிமிட்டெட்

(17.09.05 முதல்)


Mr V M Karmegam   திரு வீ மு கார்மேகம்

Executive Editor, Head of Tamil News and Current Affairs,   MediaCorp News Pte Ltd

நிர்வாக ஆசிரியர், தலைவர், தமிழ்ச் செய்தி மற்றும் நடப்பு விவகாரப் பகுதி,

மீடியகோர்ப் நியூஸ் பிரைவெட் லிமிட்டெட்


School Leaders and Educationists


Mr A Sivam Reddy   திரு அ சிவம் ரெட்டி

Principal, Greenwood  Primary School

பள்ளி முதல்வர், கிரீன்வூட் தொடக்கப் பள்ளி


Miss Geetha Doraisamy  குமாரி கீதா துரைசாமி

Principal, Blangah   Rise   Primary School

பள்ளி முதல்வர், பிளாங்கா ரைஸ் தொடக்கப் பள்ளி


Mr Krishnan Aravinthan  திரு கிருஷ்ணன் அரவிந்தன்

Vice Principal, Anderson  Secondary School

பள்ளி துணை முதல்வர், ஆண்டர்சன் உயர்நிலைப் பள்ளி


Mr Manogaran Suppiah  திரு மனோகரன் சுப்பையா

Superintendent, Cluster N4, MOE

N4 குழும மேற்பார்வையாளர், கல்வி அமைச்சு


Mr N Subramaniam  திரு   ந சுப்ரமணியம்

Acting Head of Department /Mother Tongue Languages, Victoria  school

தற்காலிகத் துறைத் தலைவர்/தாய்மொழிகள் துறை,  விக்டோரியா பள்ளி


Mr Pon Sundararaju  திரு பொன் சுந்தரராசு

TL Master Teacher, Cluster S3, MOE

தமிழ்மொழி முதன்மை ஆசிரியர், S3 குழுமம், கல்வி மைச்சு


Mr Thirumaran Thangaraju  திரு திருமாறன் தங்கராசு

Head of Department/Mother Tongue Languages, Woodlands  Secondary School

துறைத் தலைவர்/தாய்மொழிகள் துறை, உட்லண்ட்ஸ் உயர்நிலைப் பள்ளி


Miss Vasanthi K Sinnathamby   குமாரி வசந்தி  சின்னத்தம்பி

Head of Department /Pastoral Care & Pupil Management, St Andrew’s Junior  School

துறைத் தலைவர்/மாணவர்நல மற்றும் மாணவர் நிர்வாகத் துறை,  செயின்ட் ஆண்ட்ரூஸ் ஜூனியர் பள்ளி


Mrs Veerarajoo Devika  திருமதி வீரராஜு தேவிகா

Head of Department /Mother Tongue Languages, CHIJ  Toa  Payoh  Primary School

துறைத் தலைவர்/தாய்மொழிகள் துறை,  CHIJ தோ பாயோ தொடக்கப் பள்ளி


MOE Officials


Miss Ho Peng   குமாரி ஹோ பெங்

Director, Curriculum Planning and Development Division, MOE

இயக்குநர், பாடத்திட்ட வரைவு மற்றும் மேம்பாட்டுப் பிரிவு,  கல்வி மைச்சு


Mr Toh Poh Guan   திரு தோ போ குவான்

Director, Assessment and Research Division, Singapore  Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB)

இயக்குநர், மதிப்பீட்டு மற்றும் ஆய்வுப் பிரிவு,   சிங்கப்பூர் தேர்வுகள்மற்றும் மதிப்பீட்டுக் கழகம்



[1] Tahap is an achievement indicator or descriptor of language skills for basic, intermediate and advanced levels.  These descriptors will be reflected at key stages such as at the end of Primary Four, Primary Six, Secondary Four and Junior College Year Two.

[2]  Tamil is diglossic, ie it has two distinct forms – Spoken Tamil and Formal Tamil. Although there are different regional varieties in Tamil Nadu, there is a standardised form of spoken Tamil that is commonly used by educated Tamils in Tamil Nadu, Malaysia and Singapore.  This form is also prevalent in the media in these countries. This is the Spoken Tamil advocated by the TLCPRC.

 [3] At present about 15% of secondary school TL students travel to one of the nine designated TL centres for their TL lessons.

[4]  The CL modular curriculum will be implemented in all schools from P1 and P2 in 2007, at P3 and P4 in 2008, at P5 in 2009 and at P6 in 2010.  

[5]  All schools were informed of the planned interim changes for PSLE and ‘O’ levels at the start of the year. Details on the examination formats for all three MTLs were announced in April this year.


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