Officials of the Singapore Chinese Teachers' Union (SCTU), representing 1,600 Chinese teachers in Singapore, met with Education Minister Ng Eng Hen for 1 1/2-hours to express their concerns over a possible cut in the weighting given to mother tongue languages in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Currently, mother tongue has a weighting of 25 per cent, similar to that for English, Mathematics and Science, the other three subjects in the PSLE.
In its statement, the union called for this weighting to be preserved "so that it is more in line with the principle of bilingualism and further strengthens the competitive advantage of Singapore in developing bilingual talents". The alternative could mean reduced Chinese lessons and redundancies in their profession.
The source of the pain is traceable to Lee Kuan Yew's insistence on bilingualism, which he finally admitted in 2009 was “wrong”. His flawed policy caused generations of students to be put off by the Chinese language, and ruined the lives of many who lost out on a tertiary education because of the Mandarin requirement. In a startling reversal of his eugenics fixation, Lee admitted "Nobody can master two languages at the same level. If (you think) you can, you're deceiving yourself. My daughter is a neurologist, and late in my life she told me language ability and intelligence are two different things," he said. If only her daughter had the temerity to tell her father of his misconceptions, much, much earlier.
While Singaporean parents anguished in haplessness as their children suffered in school, the Ministry of Education turned a deaf ear. However when it was revealed all but one of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's seven grandchildren dislike speaking Mandarin and face difficulties learning Chinese, they suddenly decided to change tack. To the extreme that they talked of requiring Mandarin proficiency in reading and speaking only, without having to learn to write in the language.
The union is treading on thin ice. In a different era, they could have been arrested for chauvinism, for championing the Chinese language. Just ask lawyer Tang Liang Hong, who was accused of being an anti-Christian and anti-Muslim Chinese chauvinist by the ruling People's Action Party during the electoral battle royale of 1997. Just ask Lee Mau Seng and the detained Nanyang Siang Pau executives who were accused of arousing communal sentiments over the Chinese language. In defense, one of them had said, "Singapore consists of a majority of Chinese. And being a Chinese-language paper, we naturally would encourage the study of the Chinese-language."
And whatever happened to the pugnacious Ng Eng Hen who put down the university dons who dared document the truth that more new jobs were going to foreigners? Why is he turning chicken in front of these Chinese teachers and not calling in the ISD goon squad? It figures, election is round the corner.