Volume 30, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN 0957-6851
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9838
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Bilingualism has always been emphasized in Singapore’s education system. Since 1959, Singapore government leaders have repeatedly stressed that bilingualism is the cornerstone of Singapore’s language policy. Scholars researching language policy and planning in Singapore have also assumed that Singapore has always maintained a consistent stand on bilingualism. This paper cites the case of Chinese language (Mandarin) education as evidence to show how “bilingual” education has undergone significant changes in Singapore by tracing the historical changes and examining how bilingual education has evolved since its implementation. The findings show that the once-compulsory bilingual requirements gave way to differentiated ones in the history of Singapore’s bilingual policy. This finding will help researchers have a better understanding of Singapore’s “bilingual education” today and its position compared to other bilingual education systems in the world.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Baker, C., & Wright, W. E.
    (2017) Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Barr, M. D., & Skrbis, Z.
    (2008) Constructing Singapore: Elitism, ethnicity and the Nation Building Project. Copenhagen: NIAS Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Bokhorst-Heng, W.
    (1999) Singapore’s Speak Mandarin Campaign: Language ideological debates and the imagining of the nation. InJ. Blommaert (Ed.), Language Ideological Debates (pp.235–266). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110808049.235
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110808049.235 [Google Scholar]
  4. Cavallaro, F., & Ng, B. C.
    (2014) Language in Singapore: From multilingualism to English plus. InJ. Hajek & Y. Slaughter (Eds.), Challenging the monolingual mindset (pp.33–48). Bristol: Multilingual Matters. 10.21832/9781783092529‑005
    https://doi.org/10.21832/9781783092529-005 [Google Scholar]
  5. Chew, E., & Kwa, C. G.
    (2012) Goh Keng Swee: a legacy of public service. Imprint Singapore; Hackensack, N.J.: World Scientific. 10.1142/8411
    https://doi.org/10.1142/8411 [Google Scholar]
  6. Chew, P. G. L.
    (2013) A sociolinguistic history of early identities in Singapore: from colonialism to nationalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1057/9781137012340
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137012340 [Google Scholar]
  7. Chinese Language Teaching & learning in Singapore
    Chinese Language Teaching & learning in Singapore (1992) Report of the Chinese Language Review Committee chaired by Mr Ong Teng Cheong, Second Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Chua, B. H.
    (2017) Liberalism disavowed: Communitarianism and state capitalism in Singapore. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 10.7591/9781501713453
    https://doi.org/10.7591/9781501713453 [Google Scholar]
  9. Chua, S. C.
    (1964) Report on the census of population 1957. State of Singapore.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. COP
    COP (1957) Census of Population. SeeChua 1964.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. COP
    COP (2010) Census of Population. Department of Statistics, Republic of Singapore.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Cummins, J.
    (2000) Language, power and pedagogy: Bilingual children in the crossfire. Language Policy, 1(2), 193–195.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Hansard, Official Reports – Parliamentary Debates
    Hansard, Official Reports – Parliamentary Debates: 10July 1968, 14May 1968, 18Feb 1981, 26Nov 2004, 18May 2010.
  14. Kuo, E. C. Y.
    (1980) The sociolinguistic situation in Singapore: unity in diversity. InE. A. Affendras and E. C. Y. Kuo (Eds.), Language and Society in Singapore (pp.39–62). Singapore: Singapore University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Lee, K. Y.
    (2012) My lifelong challenge: Singapore’s bilingual journey. Singapore: Straits Times Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Lee, C. L.
    (2012) Saving Chinese Language-Education in Singapore. Current Issues in Language Planning13(4), 285–304. 10.1080/14664208.2012.754327
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14664208.2012.754327 [Google Scholar]
  17. Lin, A., & Man, Y. F. E.
    (2009) Bilingual education: Southeast Asian perspectives. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. 10.5790/hongkong/9789622099586.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.5790/hongkong/9789622099586.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  18. Newman, J.
    (1988) Singapore’s Speak Mandarin Campaign. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 9 (5): 437–448. 10.1080/01434632.1988.9994348
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.1988.9994348 [Google Scholar]
  19. Pakir, A.
    (1991) The range and depth of English-knowing bilinguals in Singapore. World Englishes, 10 (2), 167–179. 10.1111/j.1467‑971X.1991.tb00149.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-971X.1991.tb00149.x [Google Scholar]
  20. Platt, J.
    (1980) Multilingualism, polyglossia, and code selection in Singapore. InE. A. Afendras & E. C. Y. Kuo (Eds.), Language and Society in Singapore (pp.63-86), Singapore. Singapore University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Quentin, D.
    (2005) Bilingual education policy in Singapore: An analysis of its sociohistorical roots and current academic outcomes. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 8 (1), 25–47. 10.1080/jBEB.v8.i1.pg25
    https://doi.org/10.1080/jBEB.v8.i1.pg25 [Google Scholar]
  22. (2009) Assumptions behind Singapore’s language-in-education policy: implications for language planning and second language acquisition. Language Policy, 8: 117–137. 10.1007/s10993‑009‑9124‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-009-9124-0 [Google Scholar]
  23. Ritu, J. & Wee
    (2019) Language education policy in Singapore. InKirkpatrick, A. & A. J. Liddicoat (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Language Education Policy in Asia (pp.272–285). London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Silver, R. E.
    (2005) The discourse of linguistic capital: Language and economic policy planning in Singapore. Language Policy, 4 (1), 47–66. 10.1007/s10993‑004‑6564‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-004-6564-4 [Google Scholar]
  25. Singapore Monitor
    Singapore Monitor, 22Dec 1983, p.2.
  26. Soon, T. W.
    (1988) Singapore’s new education system: education reform for national development. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Tan, R. & Chew, S. F.
    (1970) An analysis of the attitudes of pupils in Chinese medium, English medium and integrated schools on selected variables. Academic exercise, Department of Sociology, University of Singapore.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. SIE. CL2 Standards in English Stream: A Micro-study
    SIE. CL2 Standards in English Stream: A Micro-study (1977) Prepared by Textbooks & Publications Section, Ministry of Education.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. The Goh Report
    The Goh Report (1979) Report on the Ministry of Education 1978. Prepared byDr Goh Keng Swee and the education study team. Textbooks & Publications Section, Ministry of Education.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. The Straits Times
    The Straits Times, 3May 1966, 11April 1966, 11Sep 1966, 8May 1967, 11Nov 1972, 6Nov 1973, 30May 1974, 15May 1978, 8Sep 1979, 29Oct 1979, 26Oct 1981, 31Jan 1999, 29May 2019, 23Oct 2019.
  31. Zhao, S., & Liu, Y.
    (2010) Chinese education in Singapore: Constraints of bilingual policy from the perspectives of status and prestige planning. Language Problems & Language Planning, 34 (3), 236–258. 10.1075/lplp.34.3.03zha
    https://doi.org/10.1075/lplp.34.3.03zha [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): bilingualism; Chinese language; education; Mandarin; Singapore
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error