Monday, September 27, 2004

Learning the mother tongue 

There were two letters published today in The Straits Times on the subject of learning the mother tongue.

Excerpt from the first letter:

Language instruction should move away from being taught as a fixed system of formal structures and functions... Languages turn many students off because teachers foist on them content they consider dull... Without a context to use and practise, a language begins to rot.
Excerpt from the second letter:

As a Secondary 4 student, I frankly admit the Chinese syllabus has the most outdated, dull and childish syllabus of all the subjects in Upper Secondary. Unrealistic talking cats, inane dialogue and 1960s propaganda-like passages do not interest 16-year-olds.
The common thread in both letters is the need to make the learning of the mother tongue more relevant and interesting. Unfortunately, the teaching of the mother tongue has in the past been heavily influenced by language purists and cultural conservatives. For Singapore's bilingualism policy to work, a little more innovation needs to be injected into the teaching.

Ideas have been coming in from the public since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong admitted the shortcomings of mother tongue teaching in his National Day Rally speech. The Ministry of Education would probably already have been aware of most of them even before PM Lee’s speech. For the more promising ideas, it must implement them as soon as feasible before Singapore degenerates into a nation of monolinguals.


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