SAP Schools

Published Date: 10 May 2021 09:00 PM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Shawn Huang Wei Zhong, Jurong GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education given the continuing need to build Singapore’s capabilities to engage the region as well as strengthen Singapore’s multi-cultural and multi-racial society, how have the Special Assistance Plan (SAP) Schools evolved over the years to remain relevant today and what are the future plans for SAP schools to be relevant in the future.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Patrick Tay Teck Guan, Pioneer SMC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education with increasing diversity, evolving needs and expectations of Singaporeans, and a post-pandemic environment, what are the new challenges which Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools face and whether they will be able to achieve their intended outcomes.

Response

1. It is useful to first set out the broader context behind the setting up of SAP schools in Singapore. In the 1950s, we had a fragmented and ethnically-based education system, with an array of vernacular schools and English-medium schools, established by various groups – philanthropists, clan associations, and religious groups. One of our first tasks was to bring these schools under a national school system. Today, government schools, clan-based and religiously-affiliated schools, all co-exist in our variegated school landscape. Later against the backdrop of declining enrolment in the Chinese-medium schools, SAP schools were established in 1979 to develop bilingual students.

2. Today, global factors have made the learning and mastery of languages more important than ever. Asia is now the fastest growing region in the world, with China as our largest trading partner. Countries around us are catching up in the learning of multiple languages, and bilingualism may no longer be a unique advantage that Singaporeans possess. We must continue to have programmes and institutions that promote the learning of our Mother Tongues, and evolve them to remain relevant to the times.

3. SAP schools are therefore uniquely positioned to immerse their students in an environment rich in Chinese culture and language to develop effectively bilingual and bicultural talent. They continue to be relevant as part of Singapore’s approach for every community to preserve and practise their cultures, religion and languages, while safeguarding the common space to develop a distinctive Singaporean identity. For the Malay and Tamil languages whose population of learners is smaller, we have introduced the Elective Programme in Malay Languages for Secondary Schools and the National Elective Tamil Language Programme, with a similar aim to develop a profile of students with a deep understanding and appreciation of the respective languages and cultures.

4. SAP schools have also evolved over the years to ensure that their students are equipped with the dispositions, attributes and sensitivities to be active citizens in our multi-racial and multi-cultural world. For example, all SAP schools offer or will be offering Conversational Malay Programmes to enable their students to communicate with Malay-speaking peers.

5. In addition, SAP schools plan regular and sustained external programmes for their students to forge bonds across communities. One example is Dunman High School’s Diversity and Inclusivity programme, which pairs students with peers from other schools, including Madrasahs, and community groups to develop cross-cultural understanding and friendships. Other SAP schools run similar programmes, such as participating in social services for the local community or collaborating with the Malay Heritage Centre. Through such sustained interactions, students have been able to connect and foster friendships with others from diverse backgrounds.

6. As our society evolves, we will continue to ensure that SAP schools are able to nurture bilingual leaders, contribute to a multi-cultural Singapore, and prepare students to seize opportunities in a changing world.

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