• BY CAI HAOXIANG
WORKERS’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang said in an e-mail statement in Chinese yesterday that the Government’s reassurances about the mother tongue issue meant it has made three commitments on its teaching and standing.
One, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will never again review the weighting of mother tongue languages in the Primary School Leaving Examination, nor will it find other avenues to do so.
Two, the MOE committee set up to review the teaching and testing of the mother tongue languages will only chart the directions for their teaching in the next 10 to 15 years, and not re-examine their value in the education system.
Three, the mother tongue at primary level holds the same weighting in terms of teaching hours and examination marks as other subjects.
Mr Low said this final undertaking is based on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s statement that the mother tongue will continue to be the cornerstone of Singapore’s education policy in the future, as it was in the past.
He then pointedly added: “If the MOE feels I have misunderstood, please immediately clarify to avoid creating the wrong impression again (and cause) people to feel happy for nothing.”
Mr Low’s statement comes a day after PM Lee and Education Minister Ng Eng Hen held a media conference addressing the mother tongue weighting at the PSLE.
The opposition MP, a former secondary school Chinese-language teacher, also scoffed at Dr Ng’s acknowledgement that his recent remarks gave the wrong impression that the mother tongue weighting at the PSLE may be cut.
Dr Ng had said on Tuesday: “I think I should have chosen my words more carefully and apologise for creating that wrong impression.”
Mr Low said: “I am perplexed and find it hard to understand how Dr Ng said he made the wrong choice of words to create the wrong impression. Is it possible that Singaporeans who care about education and Chinese-language education… all misunderstood Dr Ng’s meaning?
“Is it because newspapers reported it wrongly, leading to the mistaken impression of the public, or did Dr Ng and PM Lee wake up in the nick of time and quickly took good advice to prevent this issue from becoming a burden in the next general election?”
Noting that Dr Ng had demonstrated a strong command of English when speaking in Parliament, he added: “I am surprised he couldn’t find the right words.”