Debate on President’s Speech – Speech by Chen Show Mao

(Delivered in Parliament on 14 May 2018)


The President outlines the tasks ahead of the nation, in five groups of priorities:
• Securing a place in the world for Singapore,including in our region
• Building a well-connected world-class city for Singaporeans
• Developing a vibrant economy with more opportunities for workers
• Forging a cohesive caring and inclusive society
• Nurturing an identity we are all proud of, with all Singaporeans

I have a small suggestion. I believe we can aid our efforts in each of these areas, to greater or lesser degrees, by an increased focus in our school curriculum on teaching Bahasa Melayu. It is our National language and a regional language. It is rooted in our geography and our history, it is not only important to our sense of who we are and where we are rooted in the world, it is also important to securing our future in the region and sharing in the growth of the region. Could we help those students who do not currently learn Malay in school attain some basic level of proficiency?

I know our children have a lot to do already in school, including learning English, Chinese or Tamil to ever higher levels of proficiency. Many members have spoken in this House of the importance of such learning, and they are right. But Bahasa Melayu is our national language. I believe it’d be to the good if all our children could learn it to some basic level of proficiency. Such learning will be good for the cognitive and intellectual development of our children. It will also protect and preserve our multiculturalism, and promote national integration and a sense of identity.

We currently have conversational third language programmes for Malay at the primary school level as enrichment (but not part of the regular curriculum). As learning languages is best done when young, could we look into making the conversational Bahasa Melayu programme part of the syllabus for our primary school students who do not otherwise learn our National language? Perhaps included as part of the regular curriculum for every primary school student, but without the pressure of exams?

The President reminds us that the Singapore bicentennial in 2019 … will be an occasion to trace our roots, and draw inspiration for the journey ahead. We will reflect on what it means to be Singaporean, and on the common values and beliefs that bind us together. The President says that “… our diverse cultures and traditions are now interwoven … we have succeeded in nurturing a distinct Singapore identity.”

I am not as confident as all that. But I believe that we will be taking a step firmly in that direction when we make the learning of our national language a bigger part of our national education.

Thank you.


总统说, 过去52年来,透过我们的教育制度,采用英语作为国人共同的工作语言让不同社群能互相沟通,建立共同的国家意识, 取得的进展相当显著。

• 与区域伙伴加强亚细安核心与团结,维持一个开放包容的区域秩序,及巩固我国在区域的国际地位。
• 敦促本地企业与时俱进,进军海外市场,包括我们区域的市场。
• 强化各个年纪层的教育,强化国人积极学习的态度,以及闯出国门的勇气。

学国语,对这各项工作,都有帮助。李钟钰在光绪21年记载: 巫来由语,通行南洋各岛,华人久居坡中,及在坡生长者,无不习之。用我们的话来讲:一百多年前,住新加坡的华人,多少都会说马来语。