Make our national language a compulsory subject in schools

By Proud Singaporean

I feel that our National Language Malay should be taught as a compulsory subject to all students in Singapore. Before I proceed on to my argument, I shall first start with my proposal as to how achieve this.

Malay will be taught as a compulsory subject to all students in Singapore. Not like an ‘O’ level subject but more like Physical Education, Civic & Moral Education etc. And since it’s now taught to everyone, Malay students will now be given a choice between Chinese or Tamil as their “mother tongue”.

My “official” reason would be: Our National Language shouldn’t be only by name while the majority of Singaporean are unable to speak it. It’s an huge embarrassment that most of us can’t even understand the national anthem.

The real reason is of course, to make Malay students learn Chinese. But Malay still needs to be somewhere in the curriculum. Remember, we’re surrounded by Malay countries who think we’re part of their territory.

The truth is, this article isn’t so much about learning Malay but rather learning Chinese. It’s really important to know Chinese in this day and age. China is quickly becoming the next superpower and rich Chinese businessmen are flocking to our shores giving us opportunities to do business with them. Singaporeans who can’t speak Chinese are at a huge disadvantage because they’re unable to benefit from this phenomenon. So why not give the same opportunity to all Singaporeans? Isn’t that what meritocracy is all about? (Not to mention, almost every job advertisement requires candidates who are able to speak Chinese.)

As someone who knows 5 languages including Malay & Mandarin Chinese, I must conclude that Chinese is considerably harder to learn than Malay. One needs to able to recognise at least 3000 characters to be able to read a Chinese newspaper. Memorising Chinese characters is a very time-consuming process and isn’t something that can be done in 1 or 2 years. In contrast, Malay uses the Latin alphabet which is already familiar to most Singaporeans. It’s also consistent in its spelling, has very few grammatical rules and I believe that if a student was to be given 1-2 hours of training a week in the language, he should be able to hold a decent conversation with a native Malay speaker within a few months

I believe that learning Malay will not be a waste of time either. Apart from the Chinese, the other wealthy group of people who frequently do business here are the Indonesians. I’m sure everyone knows that Malay and Indonesian are kind of the same thing. Indonesian is also one of the most-spoken language in the world.

My conclusion is, Malay is a relatively simple language and every Singaporean should have some knowledge of it. On the other hand, Malay students shouldn’t spend so much time on it and should instead spend the time to learn Chinese to remain competitive in this new world. Trilingualism is possible and has been done by every Malaysian who went to a non-Malay-medium school.

This was reproduced with permission from editors of The Real Singapore.


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