AS A retired English teacher and the mother of two young professionals, both managers, I wish Dr Ng Eng Hen had been Education Minister in their school years. Coming from an English-speaking home, their mother tongue was and remains English. Period.
Because of the bilingual policy and a hefty weighting of mother tongue, we enrolled them in PCF kindergartens hoping to expose them to a Mandarin-speaking environment. At the same time, at dinner time, we watched a Mandarin serial called Coffee Shop together, again to give them more exposure.
Both attended mission schools. Both struggled with Chinese, although my daughter was slightly better. As they ploughed through the subject, they spent more time on it than on reading books they loved. I discovered how my son hated the subject only when I picked up a handwritten note on the floor of his room one day. It read: 'I hate Chinese tuition because it makes me feel so stupid.'
Because of the mother tongue requirement for university entry, my daughter focused on her Chinese paper, sacrificing her time for other subjects. As a result, she scored poorly for her pet subject. Instead of obtaining a distinction she got an E.
Although invited to apply for joint admission to the universities, she was eventually rejected. We had to send her overseas where she excelled in her studies. She consistently scored distinctions and higher distinctions. Her professor even arranged a work attachment for her and a permanent job after that. Singapore would have lost a young professional had my husband not persuaded her to return.
My son learnt from his sister's experience. After scoring the bare minimum for entry requirements, he focused on his other subjects and made it to the university.
Why do we still insist our children need to be proficient in both languages? After all, how many will really have to do business with China?
Julia Sng (Mrs)
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