Tagged: Mother Tongue Languages

Enhancing the Teaching and Testing of Mother Tongue Languages (MTL) to Nurture Active Learners and Proficient Users – MTL Review Committee Releases Its Recommendations

From MOE Press Releases:

MOE will align school-based assessments and national examinations to the desired language proficiencies and test language use in authentic contexts. While new items are added or existing items are modified, there will also be reduction in certain existing items, in order to maintain the current overall difficulty level. The following changes will take place:

  • New examination items to test interaction skills will be introduced.
  • The use of dictionaries and e-dictionaries2 will be extended to new interactive writing items (e.g., writing an email response to a stimulus) in examinations. This is in addition to, and not replacing, essay-writing.
  • Video clips, instead of line drawings, will be used as stimuli for oral examinations. This will provide a more engaging and realistic context to stimulate conversation.
  • Computer-based writing will be introduced for secondary and junior college students in selected sections of the national examinations, starting with groups which have smaller candidature. Once assured of the technical and examination administration aspects, this can be progressively expanded to other groups over time.
  • Oral examinations will be introduced for O-Level Higher MTL (HMTL) to signal the importance of good oral communication skills for our HMTL students.

Big news for Mother Tongue teachers in Singapore. As usual I’m more interested in the assessment part than the teaching part. All I can say for now is ICT will continue to drive the shift in assessment. However mindset is something trickier to change. Baby steps at a time 🙂

How about radical overhaul to assessment?

From Channel NewsAsia:

MOE hints no radical overhaul to teaching of Mother Tongue languages

…the Director-General of Education, Ho Peng, hinted there won’t be a radical overhaul to the teaching and learning. Instead, it will build on the strengths of what’s in place…

…And one thing is clear – infocomm technology (ICT) will play an increasingly larger role in the teaching and learning of Mother Tongue languages.

“You’re talking about digital natives. Children in fact connect very readily and easily with ICT. So I think in terms of teaching and learning in the classroom, we really need to use ICT in order to engage the next generation,” said Ho…


  1. Will there be a radical overhaul in assessment? Frankly, as long as it moves slightly away from standardized testing, it will be considered a radical overhaul. 😀
  2. Not just MTL, ICT will play continue to play an increasingly bigger role in all subject areas.
  3. We have been talking a lot about using ICT for teaching and learning. Time to look at using ICT for assessment.


2-3 weeks ago, I commented (in Chinese) on the PSLE Mother Tongue weighting reduction saga, the most talk-about education issue in Singapore the past month:

其实心情是矛盾的。无庸讳言,我一向对考试制度不太苟同,认为以一个统一测试来断定学生的表现是十分残酷的。我有时甚至认为统一测试有朝一日将会被另类评估如协作/专题作业或数码学习档案(Digital Portfolio)所取代!


但是,令人担忧的是,此项教改纯粹是针对母语而来的,并非全方位的改革考试制度。要是各科比重一起减少,取而代之是另类评估的成绩,就非常理想了!譬如说,学生的各科成绩比重为20%。最后的20%综合了课外活动、专题作业、德育、美术、音乐等非主流科系的表现,那无疑是打造出拥有21世纪软技能(21st Century Skills) 的学生的一大步了!



To sum up in a few words, the most important task is improve the teaching and assessment of the languages. Weighting adjustment is not the one size fits all solution.

Review of Teaching of Mother Tongue Languages

From Minister Speech in the 12th Principals’ Appointment Ceremony:

Here’s are excerpts of the speech touching on upcoming changes in Mother Tongue Languages (MTL) teaching:

“…today, nearly 6 in 10 Primary 1 Chinese students come from households where English is the dominant home language, compared to 1 in 10 in 1982. For Indians it has increased from 3 in 10 to 6 in 10; Malays—0.5 in 10 to 3.5 in 10. For MTL, we cannot expect the same outcomes or teach the same way as we have before, when the speaking environment in homes today, indeed in society, is radically different compared to that 20 years ago, or even a decade ago.”

“…a review to make the teaching of CL more engaging and useful, to keep pace with our changing language environment. Basically, we will need more and differentiated approaches to cater to students with a wider band of language abilities and home backgrounds.”

“…we will have to re-calibrate our expectations and teaching methods to keep CL alive and useful for them. Our aim is to emphasise and teach CL for students as a live language they can use, in the modes which they are likely to use. We will have to update our curriculum, teaching methods and even tests to keep in tandem with changes in our society. We do want to make the learning of CL more engaging and fun, but students will still have to make the effort to learn CL.”

“…we will continue the emphasis in speaking and listening, to make the learning of CL more relevant and useful for students…We will increase further the oracy component but details will be announced in due course, with adequate time for students to prepare well. Third, we will use more info-communications technologies platforms to help students learn and write the language. ICT tools are widely available and indeed what people use through emails or SMS-es to communicate in daily life and work.”

“…As with all subjects, we must align teaching methods, curriculum and testing formats to achieve the right outcomes for CL…we are interested in these other systems as they are more tailored for students with home language environments that approximate a growing segment of our students. Their end points have a different emphasis—less focused on writing components but more targeted to help students use the language and build confidence progressively—a goal we share.”

“…We are likely to evolve our own model, by integrating the most appropriate features we find in good teaching systems around the world.”

“…These changes re-affirm our bilingual policy. We are responding decisively to on-going trends and preparing our students for their future. We will not get stuck in any mental mould or system even when they have become less effective or relevant in changed circumstances. Instead, we must remain open to new ideas, methods and tools that are available to more effectively help all our students with different abilities learn CL. We want to engage all our students, help them become proficient in using the language—to converse and read in everyday contexts.”

“…The upcoming changes will require some re-training, but these changes will be introduced over time, to minimise disruptions. I want to commend our CL teachers who have responded positively in the past to change. They recognised the need to adapt to changing circumstances with the interests of our students at heart.”

This is one of the most important speeches delivered by Minister about Mother Tongue (Chinese) language teaching. Exciting times ahead 😉