Ms Raeesah Khan asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what is the breakdown of the number of mother tongue language (MTL) pre-school educators by (i) MTL taught and (ii) pre-school classification such as MOE kindergartens and anchor operators (AOPs); (b) what is the take-up rate of the Certificate in Pre-school Mother Tongue Language Teaching (CPMTL) courses for Malay and Tamil Languages; (c) where are individuals who have completed the CPMTL course currently employed, broken down by pre-school classification; and (d) whether there are targets for the number or distribution of pre-school MTL teachers.
Before I answer the specific questions the Member asked, let me provide some background to set the context of Mother Tongue Language (MTL) learning in Singapore.
2 Post-independence, when the Government decided that English would be the common working language for all Singaporeans, we also made the learning of MTL compulsory from primary school, with few exceptions.
3 As families increasingly adopted English as their daily language, the education system and our teachers worked hard to keep the Chinese, Malay and Tamil Languages alive. This effort continues and is by no means an easy task.
4 We introduced and expanded Language Elective Programmes at Junior Colleges, and then secondary schools, to help students with the interest and talent in MTL to learn it at a deeper level. We introduced the Elective Programme in Malay Language for Secondary Schools for students to not just nurture their skills in the language, but also acquire a deeper appreciation of Malay culture and literature. We set up the Umar Pulavar centre, to deepen the learning of Tamil Language. To help students weak in MTL, we are also implementing the Mother Tongue Support Programme in primary school.
5 While much has been done, we decided to bring the intervention upstream as language is learnt from young. MOE Kindergartens set the benchmark today, with all 36 MOE Kindergartens offering all three MTLs. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) has also been working closely with the Anchor Operators (AOPs) to double their provision of Malay and Tamil language education to about 350 centres by 2022.
6 But MTL teaching resources are limited, so the offer of different MTLs across centres is still expanding.
7 Nationally, about 1,800 or over 90% of preschools offer at least one Mother Tongue Language. Of these, about 160 preschools, including all MOE Kindergartens, offer all three MTLs. Another 260 preschools offer two MTLs, and the rest offer one MTL.
8 We have at least one preschool centre offering Malay or Tamil language in almost all heartland planning areas. ECDA’s continued efforts with AOPs to have a good geographical spread of centres offering MTL, together with MOE’s planned increase in the number of MOE Kindergartens to about 60 by 2025, will offer parents a range of preschools that offer MTL learning. Parents may use the Preschool Search Portal by ECDA to search for the nearest centre with their MTL of choice.
9 To expand MTL teaching resources, ECDA has been working closely with training providers and operators to expand training capacity. Today, we have about 10,500 early childhood educators who meet the required language qualifications and could be engaged to teach Chinese Language, about 2,800 for Malay Language, and about 700 for Tamil Language. But not all may choose to teach MTL.
10 The Certificate in Preschool MTL Teaching (CPMTL) for Malay and Tamil Language was launched in 2019 to enhance in-service early childhood educators’ pedagogical skills in the teaching of MTL.
11 As of February 2021, close to 300 in-service educators have completed the CPMTL for Malay and Tamil Language and have been deployed as MTL teachers in the preschools.
12 The national effort to strengthen the learning of MTL and keep our cultures alive has lasted decades and has been upheld as a cornerstone of our education policy. Thousands of educators have dedicated themselves to this mission and the hard work will continue, as we expand our intervention upstream to pre-school.