Exemption from taking MTL

Published Date: 21 March 2018 12:00 AM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms Denise Phua Lay Peng, Jalan Besar GRC


To ask the Minister for Education (Schools) (a) how many appeals for exemption from Mother Tongue Language (MTL) have been received in each of the last three years; (b) what are the reasons for the appeals and what are the outcomes of these appeals; and (c) which department in the Ministry is responsible for assessing the appeals for an exemption from MTL and what is their basis for the approval of the appeals.


1. Bilingualism is a cornerstone of Singapore’s education system. Under our bilingual policy, students are required to offer English and a Mother Tongue Language (MTL).

2. Students may only be granted MTL exemption under exceptional circumstances, such as, if they join our schools mid-stream without having learnt an official MTL or when they have certified Special Educational Needs (SEN) that severely affect their ability to cope with overall learning. Over the past three years, the proportion of Primary 6 students exempted from offering MTL due to SEN has remained fairly stable, at around 2.3% annually.

3. MTL exemption applications and appeals are evaluated by an MOE panel. The panel comprises specialists with expertise in curriculum provisions and SEN. Depending on the complexity of the case, the panel may also consult clinicians in the healthcare sector in their evaluations of the applications.

4. Students with difficulties in reading and writing MTL can take up Foundation MTL in Primary 5 and 6, and the MTL ‘B’ curriculum at Secondary and Junior College levels. The Foundation MTL and MTL ‘B’ curriculum focuses on the development of oral and listening skills, with a reduced demand on writing skills. This allows them to continue to have exposure to learning MTL.

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