SINGAPORE: Teachers hope to see more students interested in taking up literature in their mother tongues, following plans to expand the language elective programme (LEP) next year.
The LEP will be expanded next year to 15 secondary schools – nine schools will offer Chinese LEP, three will offer Malay LEP and another three will offer it in Tamil, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung announced on Tuesday (May 28).
The Chinese LEP secondary schools are mostly Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools, which have a strong focus on Chinese language and culture.
Nan Chiau High School is one of the SAP schools to introduce Chinese LEP in 2020.
Mr Tang Jun Piow, Nan Chiau High School's head of department for mother tongue language, is "very optimistic" that more students will be enticed to read Chinese literature in secondary school.
He added that the school plans to invite local and international authors to share their experiences as part of the new LEP next year.
"We have this ambition to really break down the frontiers between English and Chinese literature to allow students to see literature as a whole," said Mr Tang.
Currently, students are only able to take Chinese literature at secondary three, according to Mr Tang.
"Our school hopes that we are able to infuse more of Chinese literature right from the start of secondary one and two so that they have greater exposure to literature in a fun and engaging way," he said.
Students who are enrolled in the programme can also look forward to a range of activities on top of the Chinese literature curriculum, including an LEP camp and an immersion programme at the national level.
Through this, the Ministry of Education said it hopes to nurture a base of students who can progress to either LEP at junior college (JC) level or mother tongue-related diplomas in polytechnics.
For Chinese literature student Lim Qi Xin, this supports her goal of pursuing Chinese studies beyond secondary school.
“I've always wanted to get into NYJC (Nanyang Junior College) to study Chinese Language and Literature,” said the Secondary 3 student.
“In the future, I would like to be in the Chinese media industry and I would like to be a reporter or an editor. My parents are Chinese journalists and editors in (Lianhe) Zaobao so ... I aspire to be like them."
The Education Minister emphasised the importance of learning languages and Singapore's bilingual policy in his address announcing the expansion of the programme.
"In the coming decades, this will be even more important as Asia is the fastest growing economic region in the world," he said.
"Knowing our mother tongues will allow us to access valuable business and employment opportunities, in our immediate region, in China and in India."
The expansion of the LEP in both secondary schools and JCs will be "an effort fit for the times", he said.
NEW TAMIL LEP AT JCs
A new Tamil LEP will be introduced in two JCs – Anderson Serangoon and National JCs – for students who excel in the language to pursue their passion for and interest in Tamil.
Currently, the two-year LEP is conducted at selected JCs in Chinese and Malay.
Anderson Serangoon Junior College will be introducing the Tamil LEP next year to their students doing Tamil Language and Literature at H2 level.
“Right now the whole lesson is based in the classroom, based on the textbook that has been prescribed. But with the new elective programme, they can go beyond the boundaries of knowing the literary works,” said Tamil teacher Mdm Kamalavani Palaiyan.
She mentioned that the school is looking to work with lecturers from universities for curriculum planning.
"For Singapore, we need to know our identity to carry forward to the next generation," said Mdm Kamalavani. "We hope that through this, by instilling this passion and interest, the students will be all able to better contribute to this society, building our economy."
Current Tamil Literature JC 2 student Reddy Kannan Yugesh has expressed interest in studying the “deeper meaning behind the Tamil language and where it all started".
The student, who aspires to become a Tamil teacher, said he hopes as much emphasis can be placed on the subject as math and science: "I feel that it’s important as it is your culture, it is your mother tongue. I would say own it, and not study for the sake of doing so and for the grades."