Examinations in Singapore’s bilingual policy
Effects on Chinese language education
Keywords:Chinese language education, Mandarin, Singapore bilingual policy, examinations, prestige planning, image planning
Singapore is a multiracial nation with three-quarters of the population comprised of ethnic Chinese people. The nation’s ‘English-knowing’ bilingual policy has resulted in a steady decline in Mandarin competency, causing much concern. While agreeing that prestige planning (related to the perceived status of the language) is lacking in Chinese language education in Singapore, some suggest that Singapore can leverage China’s economic success or strengthen the Chinese curriculum to arrest the problem. An understanding of the historical developments behind Chinese language policies is necessary to grasp the link between prestige planning and language-in-education in Singapore. This paper adopts a historical approach to show how examinations have been used as essential tools in Singapore’s meritocratic society to adjust the requirements of Chinese language education, directly affecting the learning of Mandarin and resulting in a shift from prestige planning to image planning (which relates to language identity). The primary sources used in this paper include transcripts of Parliamentary debates and reports from leading newspapers, both English and Chinese, which are critical to understanding the rationale of language policies.
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