Singapore’s English-Knowing Bilingual Policy: A Critical Evaluation

  • Patrick Ng Chin LeongEmail author
Part of the Language Policy book series (LAPO, volume 11)


The present paper, drawing upon the theoretical framework on why educational language plans fail (Kaplan et al. Current Issues in Language Planning,12(2), 105–124, 2011), and adopting a wider sociohistorical, sociocultural and sociopolitical analysis, critically evaluates the English-knowing bilingual school policy in Singapore. Implemented in 1966, the English-knowing bilingual policy was made mandatory for all students in Singapore to study English as a ‘First Language’ and a ‘mother tongue’ language (Malay, Tamil or Chinese) as a ‘Second Language.’ Since its implementation, the English-knowing bilingual educational policy has been a highly emotive controversial subject in Singapore as various stakeholders-policy makers, educators, parents, students and administrators-debated on various issues confronting bilingual education in the nation. In this regard, the issues under examination are: the perceived decline in the English standards, the prevalence of Colloquial Standard English or Singlish in schools, the lack of English proficiency of English teachers, the decline of Chinese literacy amongst Chinese students, the loss of Chinese-medium education, the inequalities between the English-speaking and Chinese-speaking citizenry, the decline of the mother tongue learning in schools and the language shift to English in particular amongst Chinese families.


Critical Evaluation Singapore English-knowing Bilingual school policy 



I would like to express my gratitude to Professor John Newman of University of Alberta, Edmonton, for his insightful comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Niigata PrefectureNiigata-shiJapan

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