I REFER to Mr Zhou Penghui's letter yesterday, 'Shun Singlish or lose out on global stage'.
While we cannot diminish the expectation of high standards of English among educators, I must say the blame placed on teachers is too heavy.
Mr Zhou points out that 'for most children, teachers are their first contact with 'correct' English', emphasising teachers' crucial duty as role models of language use.
Blaming the teachers' lack of 'conscious effort' for the young generation's state of English is to say they have not led by example. But how often do we encounter teachers conducting lessons in Singlish? Or advocating the use of Singlish?
Ultimately, the follow-the-leader notion alone cannot inspire the preference for good English over Singlish. This change would be better incentivised by a new focus in the education system.
Indeed, 'direct contact vis-a-vis the other party is increasingly predominant'. The worrying phenomenon in Singapore is that while students may be able to write well, their ability to speak fluently pales in comparison.
The education system has placed too much emphasis on being well-versed in the written word, at the expense of proficiency in verbal communication.
The occasional oral examinations and presentations are simply insufficient, considering that written tests and examinations crowd the academic calendar.
Students should learn that while writing well can help them in school, they will not survive in the real world without equally good oral skills.
Creating more occasions when students have to display proficiency in verbal communication, perhaps coupled with an increase in the weightage of such assessments, should help to drive home the point.
It is unrealistic to expect Singaporeans to shun Singlish altogether, at least not in this century. We will 'continue to adopt Singlish as our spoken language'. However, if we can speak as well as we write when the situation calls for it, we should not be disadvantaged on the global platform.
Karen Zainal (Miss)
This article was first published in The Straits Times.