Speech by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education and Chair of the Fund, at the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism 10th Anniversary Commemorative Event

Published Date: 24 November 2021 06:00 PM

News Speeches

Members of the Board, Committee members,

MOE colleagues,

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

1. A very good afternoon to all of you, including those of you joining us online. Thank you for joining us to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism.

2. Let me first extend my appreciation to all our donors and partners for your generous support and good work.

  1. Over the past 10 years, the Fund has committed 27 million dollars to support close to 200 projects.
  2. This has added to a growing collection of workshops, performances, books and multimedia resources that benefit pre-schoolers and young adults.

3. I want to also acknowledge our valued partners, for your time and effort in reaching out to parents, preschools, libraries, to children from less privileged backgrounds, and the community at large.

  1. To date, the Fund has partnered over 120 stakeholders which has been instrumental in helping us to achieve what we have over the last 10 years.

4. While we have achieved much, we are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to help our young to learn two languages.

  1. During the Circuit Breaker last year, the Fund launched a Special Call for Projects with the hashtag #IAmBilingualSG.
  2. It received close to 150 entries from creative talents, freelancers, publishers, educators and organisations.
  3. This created a pool of digital resources accessible via the Fund's YouTube channel.
  4. Parents can tap on these digital resources to guide their young ones in learning their mother tongues at home.

5. The Fund has also partnered:

  1. Mediacorp to run five seasons of the bilingual TV programme Junction Tree, available for free viewing on meWATCH, and
  2. SPH to publish periodicals for children: 《小小拇指》, Cilik Cerdik and Balar Murasu.
  3. Last December, with the Fund's support, SPH Media Trust launched a mobile app for their preschool publication 《小小拇指》 or Thumbs Up Little Junior.
  4. The app contains drag-and-drop games and art-and-craft activities that parents can do with their children.
  5. There are also animated nursery rhymes composed by preschool teachers, for parents to sing along with their children.

6. The Fund also supported book publisher Ungu Pen, in the development of several Malay-English bilingual children's picture books.

  1. This series of books – with light-hearted titles such as "Ah Choo!" and "Where are you Going, Sara?" – follows the adventures of different children as they go about their daily lives.

7. The Fund will continue to support the development of age-appropriate resources contextualised to Singapore.

  1. We hope parents will be able to use these resources to guide their children in reading, listening and practising their oral skills, and learn more about our heritage in the process.

8. Going forward, the LKYFB Committee wants to use our resources to catalyse a movement.

  1. Beyond supporting the creation and curation of content in the traditional ways, we want to explore and encourage more user-generated content, accessible through more channels to be used by a new generation of parents, teachers, and learners.
  2. We welcome collaboration with more diverse partners, more diverse content generators and more diverse channels to reach the wider community.

Why Bilingualism?

9. At this juncture, it is useful for us to recall and remember the reasons for our policy on and commitment to bilingualism.

  1. It goes to the core of our identity as Singaporeans.
  2. In history, many societies define their identities based on race, language, religion, or common ancestry.
  3. Other societies, including various new and emerging nation states, define their identities based on a fresh common identity, often putting little or no weight on their past.

10. Neither of these approaches define our Singapore way.

  1. We want the best of both worlds.
  2. We are always building a forward-looking common identity for our young nation, based upon our diverse roots, drawing on our multiple strengths.
  3. Hence, we have English as a common language for all, regardless of race, language, or religion. It is the language most commonly used among our four official languages.
  4. We also have a bilingual policy for us to not lose our rich and diverse heritage, to contribute to our sense of shared values, and perspectives.
  5. Arguably, it is the harder path taken, in comparison to those taken by many other societies. However, neither monolingualism nor multilingualism without a common language will serve us well.
  6. But we believe our bilingualism path is well worth our effort.

11. Today, this effort for us to anchor our national identity on bilingualism is more important, pertinent, and salient than ever before.

  1. In a world that threatens to bifurcate and fragment according to competition or differences in ideologies, cultures or system of governance, it is more important than ever for us to distinguish ourselves by being able to bridge these differences to connect with different parts of the world, with different people of different perspectives.
  2. In a world, where China, India and Southeast Asia grow in their economic, political and cultural heft, our ability to be bilingual will enhance our ability to understand them, connect with them and stay relevant to them.
  3. In a world buffeted by competing ideologies, perspectives and value systems, our bilingualism goes beyond the understanding of specific languages – it offers us a set of shared values and perspectives to define our national identity.
    1. Otherwise, we may unwittingly be drawn into cultural contests happening in other parts of the world, or
    2. We may be influenced by external forces and lured into simply applying a plug-and-play model here without proper understanding of our own needs and context.

 

12. Our forefathers have been wise and prescient to establish the foundations of bilingualism for our young nation.
  1. Monolingualism would not have brought us this far, neither will it bring us as far as we can go, going forward.
  2. On the other hand, for many talented Singaporeans, they have become multilingual to their benefit and to our country's benefit. Indeed, for those who are more able, we will continue to encourage and enable them to master two or more languages to better understand and connect with the world.

Conclusion

13. Our commitment to bilingualism goes beyond encouraging and enabling our people to learn, use and master English as a working language together with our respective mother tongues.

14. It is a commitment to build our distinctive identity as Singaporeans who can understand and bridge differences across cultures, competing perspectives and contesting ideologies.

15. Language is the window to one's culture and values.

  1. Being able to master more than one is a great advantage.
  2. Being able to appreciate more than one language, and bridge different perspectives and value system is an even greater advantage.
  3. Long may this continue to distinguish us as Singaporeans.

16. Thank you.

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