Move more learning online
MY FRIENDS spend hours on computer games every day, and because they do, why not try to nudge them away from games and towards mother tongue homework by moving more learning online?
Perhaps an online class blog system that allows us to post diary-like entries about our school days and lives in our second language?
It will strengthen friendships and also help us practise our writing skills.
We could also be given online comic strips to improve our reading skills, or have teachers post videos, discussion topics and links to news stories online and have us respond to them.
This way, our teachers can understand us better and engage us using a platform we are familiar with.
Nicholas Lam, 11, is a Primary 6 student at Rosyth School.
The meaning behind the words
STUDYING a mother tongue isn't just about words, sentences and their meaning, but it should also be taught together with its origins, historical development and culture.
I am fortunate to be able to converse fluently in my mother tongue five years after I last studied it in school, all thanks to a dedicated Chinese language teacher.
Even though there was no escaping rote learning and the torment of memorising hundreds of idioms and thousands of sentences, my teacher made sure we gained an understanding of the true essence of the language.
That entailed teaching the history of the language, how characters evolved to their present pictorial forms, and the stories behind the many idioms we had to commit to memory.
Being exposed to such knowledge deepened our appreciation of the beauty of the language, paving the way for an easier time in mastering our mother tongue.
That, I believe, is how mother tongue ought to be taught. When a passionate teacher uses this pedagogy, more students might choose to converse in their mother tongue long after leaving school.
Ernest Tan, 21, has a place to read economics at SMU.
Teach components separately
STUDENTS are assessed in their mother tongue for their ability to listen, speak and write, with the weighting of each component in increasing order.
But a student who scores an overall C might not be equally proficient in all three components. He might write well but not speak the language fluently. Similarly, he might speak and listen well but fare poorly in writing.
The Ministry of Education should assess the abilities of every student in these three components separately, and tailor classes to suit one's individual abilities. So a student could take higher level listening classes with foundational writing and speaking classes, for example. He will have the option of levelling up or down as he improves or worsens.
This will allow each student to glean the optimal amount of knowledge from each mother tongue lesson, ensuring they get an all-rounded development of language ability, and reducing the frustration of many who are struggling in the subject.
Law Che Kun, 19, has a place to study chemical and biomolecular engineering at NTU.
Initiative from parents
COMING from an English-speaking family, Chinese has never been my particular strength.
My grades were borderline most of the time. I wasn't exactly my Chinese teacher's favourite student. Spelling books would fly across the classroom, sometimes into the bin, where I had to pick them up - something I'm sure many primary schoolchildren today can relate to.
What was different in my case was my mother who, being deeply concerned at my lack of interest in the language, enrolled me in tuition classes, despite my violent protests.
She sat me down every night before my PSLE exam, going through countless assessment books, worksheets and material. I will never forget the desperation and the tears I shed in the long and laborious process of memorising Chinese characters, phrases and sentences.
But it was all worth it in the end when I managed an A for the PSLE, a commendable effort for someone like me.
So for parents out there who are concerned about how mother tongue is taught in schools, I suggest this: to really support your child in his learning, start by personally offering your help.
Ng Yang Han, 19, is a final-year mass communications student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Woo us with pop culture
THE pedagogical approach of teaching mother tongue can be revised to include more up-to-date topics or popular media to pique our interest.
For instance, pop songs like Jay Chou's Snail and Listen To Mama's Words have meaningful themes like perseverance and filial piety. Vocabulary can also be taught in context instead of through dry methods like dictation or spelling tests.
My English-speaking friends may not be able to speak Mandarin fluently but they can sing Chinese songs without skipping a word. Instead of writing boring compositions, how about getting us to write lyrics instead?
The Ministry of Education also produces politically correct educational shows which are unappealing to us. Why not use teen dramas or YouTube videos?
Many students like me are fervent fans of soap operas and can even memorise scripts. I spent more time watching re-runs of Taiwanese drama The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog than studying Chinese textbooks. The dialogue was witty, like real-life conversation.
On top of this, these dramas address issues such as materialism and relationships, as well as challenges faced by youths today.
Need evidence? Try this: my friend recycled a storyline from a TV drama for an essay, and scored almost full marks.
Ong Yanlin, 17, is a science student at Raffles Institution.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.