MOE Committee of Supply Debate 2015 – Mother Tongue exemptions at PSLE


Mother Tongue exemptions at PSLE

Madam, I agree with bilingualism being a cornerstone of our education system.  All students in our primary and secondary schools now have to offer a Mother Tongue Language (MTL).

In a recent parliament reply, MOE had said that around 3.5% of students are exempted from MTL at the PSLE yearly. I accept that there are genuine reasons for exemptions such as those who join our education system mid-way without prior learning of the MTL or there are medical reasons that adversely affect their ability to cope with MTL.

In another reply, MOE cited that on average over the past 5 years, 178 MTL exemptions were given at PSLE in the 5 schools with the highest exemptions. That is 35.6 students per school, which is around 15-17% of the PSLE cohort in an average school.

This is high compared to the national average of 3.5%. Has MOE examined the reasons why there are wide variations in MTL exemptions across schools? Has MOE or the principal of schools with high exemptions sought to interview applicants to probe further into the reasons for seeking MTL exemptions? Seeking exemption based on medical reasons is costly. Is there a strong correlation between MTL exemptions and the socio-economic status of parents?

I hope students will not find ways to opt out of MTL even if they find the subject difficult or parents worry that offering MTL may pull down their children’s PSLE T-Score.

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