By Leow Si Wan
THE two camps at opposite ends of how much weighting mother tongue languages should be given in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) will be heard in the ongoing review of how those languages are assessed.
Said Education Minister Ng Eng Hen: 'The fact that we have two groups who are at different ends of the spectrum tells you that our system is what we call polarised.'
He was responding to reactions to his interview with The Straits Times published on Wednesday, in which he said that the Education Ministry was reviewing the current weighting given to mother tongue languages at the Primary 6 level - 25 per cent as with the other three subjects - and considering the feasibility of lowering this figure.
Dr Ng was speaking to reporters at the official opening of the Council for Private Education's Student Services Centre yesterday at the YMCA Building in Orchard Road.
The views of parents and pupils over his statements have been divided along traditional lines. One group feels that making the languages count for less would lead to pupils neglecting those subjects, therefore undermining the bilingual policy, while others believe that pupils should not be penalised for not excelling in their mother tongues.
Noting that these were all valid and predictable concerns, Dr Ng said: 'This is indeed why we wanted to find some modification to the system that can accommodate both views.'
While the bilingual policy is still relevant and students should acquire basic competency in their mother tongue language, the question is whether there is a need to push all students to study these languages at a higher level.
A possible model to make sure that those capable of going further do so is to provide incentives for this group, said Dr Ng. For example, higher mother tongue is required for students to enter Special Assistance Plan schools. A significant number of places in top schools, such as Raffles Institution, could still be reserved for these students.
But nothing is finalised. Dr Ng said: 'Let's continue to explore, let's continue to talk to people...let's see where we can go to the next step, to get the system that accommodates the diverse needs of different parents and students.'
The ongoing mother tongue language review will be completed by the end of the year.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.