Nurturing bilingual learners: Challenges and concerns in Singapore

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Singapore’s bilingual policy legitimises English not only as the language of governmental administration and interethnic communication, but also as the medium of instruction in all schools on all levels and across all subjects except mother tongues (MTs). As a result of these politics of language recognition, a visible shift has occurred in all ethnic groups away from MTs towards English. To rectify the language shift situation, the government has emphasised that developing bilingualism and raising bilingual children should begin in preschools. In this paper, we examine two top-down official documents: Review of Mother Tongue Languages Report, issued in 2011, and Nurturing Early Learners Framework for Mother Tongue Languages, developed in 2013. Attempting to identify some of the complex factors that influence language shift, we present an intertextual analysis of the Report and the curriculum Framework. In doing so, we compare the consistencies and locate the implicit inconsistencies in the policy position on bilingual education in preschools. We conclude the article by outlining the implications for changing the current bilingual educational models and providing teacher training programmes that maximise the learning opportunities of young bilingual learners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-705
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number6
Early online date16 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2016


  • preschool
  • bilingual policy
  • curriculum framework
  • mother tongue languages
  • Singapore


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