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Singapore’s Bilingual Education Programmes for Secondary Level & Above

By Chan Hoi Ki on 30/06/2022

(Source: NUS High School of Mathematics & Science)

The current state of bilingualism education in Singapore is offered in various forms for students to take up in terms of skill proficiency, options and interest. This is constantly evolving to adapt through the times to meet international demand and provide the confidence for our students to venture beyond Singapore. There has been increasing demand in students choosing their own additional mother tongues on the basis of their economic value. 

At the current state, most of the varying forms of bilingual education in Singapore is only being offered at Secondary levels and above.

Language Elective Programmes (LEP) is currently offered only for Mandarin, Malay and Tamil at selected schools. This is offered at both the secondary and pre-university levels. These are 2-year long programmes targeted at students who wish to attain a higher aptitude at their mother tongue. This also enhances their knowledge in their mother tongue’s literature and culture. Students who have completed the programme will receive a certificate of recognition leaving them eligible for a Language Elective Scholarship. You can find out more of each respective programme’s curriculum from the MOE website below.

Secondary: CLEP | MLEP | TLEP
Pre-university: CLEP | MLEP | TLEP

In the recent 2022 budget debate, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing announced that Mother Tongue ‘B’ programmes will be scrapped from the 2024 cohort in line with the full subject banding (SBB). Alternatively, mother tongue will be offered at G1 or G2 levels. Currently, the Mother Tongue ‘B’ programmes are being offered to Express and Normal Academic (NA) students who are less proficient at their mother tongue.

A few selected schools in Singapore also offer Conversational Chinese & Malay programmes. These programmes were implemented by MOE since 2005 to encourage students to pick up elementary understanding of a third national language in a less formal setting, bridging the language divide and strengthening racial harmony in Singapore. Currently this is offered to Secondary 1 & 2 students and will receive a certification of recognition upon completion of the programme.

With regards to third languages, MOE will also be piloting third-language programmes with external partners. This is also only offered to secondary levels and above. Students will be required to take their third language examinations at ‘O’ Levels, ‘A’ Levels and at their respective external language examining agencies to benchmark their proficiency.

Every school will also require an overseas partnership to facilitate student exchanges and increased exposure to other cultures. In addition, Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) have a target of having at least 70% of their students to overseas exposure, of which 70% to be in ASEAN, China or India. That way, students will have a better appreciation of a language in a real-world context. 

All in all, Singapore’s current education system encourages all Singaporeans to embrace their Mother Tongue Languages at any proficiency level to remain connected to their heritage and culture. Accessibility to third language programmes are also currently in the works to encourage uptake in lieu of interests and economic value in the international markets. 

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3

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