Exemption from taking a Mother Tongue Language

It is compulsory to study an official Mother Tongue Language (MTL) in primary school, but some exceptions may apply. Learn about what they are and who may be eligible.


Your child may be eligible for MTL exemption in a mainstream primary school if they:

  • Are Singaporeans returning from overseas in the middle of their primary school education journey.
  • Have been overseas for a long period of time and had no opportunity to learn an official MTL, a Non-Tamil Indian Language (NTIL) or an approved Foreign or Asian Language.
  • Have special educational needs, with severe difficulties in coping with overall learning.

How to apply for exemption

You can apply for MTL exemption at your child’s school. The school will also inform you of the application result.

Approval will be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account factors such as:

  • Duration and location of your child’s overseas stay.
  • Exposure to an official MTL, an NTIL or an approved Foreign or Asian Language while overseas.
  • The MTL curriculum’s demand upon admission.

For children diagnosed with special educational needs, we will take into account your child’s overall learning, school level and the school’s assessment of their learning.

Taking a Foreign Language or Asian Language instead

Your child can only take a Foreign Language or Asian Language instead of MTL if they have:

  • Lived overseas for a prolonged period of time.
  • Not kept up with the learning of their MTL.
  • Had formal learning in the Foreign Language or Asian Language.

Approved Foreign Languages include:

  • French
  • German
  • Japanese

Approved Asian Languages include:

  • Arabic
  • Burmese
  • Thai
  • You will need to make private study arrangements for your child.
  • You should ensure that your private education provider can prepare your child for the GCE O-Level examinations at the end of secondary school before enrolling.