Sunday 18 August 2013

Give kids early start in bilingualism: Lee Kuan Yew

He reiterates belief close to his heart at N-Day dinner in his constituency
By Tham Yuen-c, The Straits Times, 17 Aug 2013

ALTHOUGH he was feeling unwell, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew yesterday continued his perfect record of turning up at every National Day dinner of his Tanjong Pagar ward.

Mr Lee, who turns 90 next month, was feeling weak yesterday but refused to miss the dinner with his residents.

While there, he then went through the entire planned programme, which included delivering a 10-minute speech.

Mr Lee's effort was clearly appreciated by the gathering of 900 people who broke out into loud cheers and applause when he arrived.

In his speech, he made it clear that the topic of bilingualism, a subject close to his heart, still weighed on his mind.

Speaking in both Mandarin and English while standing at a podium, Mr Lee reiterated his belief that parents needed to give their children an early start at learning two languages.

"Education is the most important factor for our next generation's success. In Singapore, our bilingualism policy makes learning difficult unless you start learning both languages, English and the mother tongue, from an early age - the earlier the better."

And to that end, he had pushed for a new pre-school that will expose students to Mandarin.

The pre-school, called Hampton@Tanjong Pagar, comes under the PAP Community Foundation umbrella but is run by private school operator EtonHouse. It will offer a programme that aims to help children develop a natural love for Mandarin.

Mr Lee told residents that research by American social scientists has debunked the common belief that teaching young children multiple languages will only confuse them.

Mr Lee had previously described bilingualism as a "cornerstone of Singapore's success story", and in 2011 made a personal donation of over $10 million to a fund that will be used for initiatives to help children learn both English and their mother tongue.

With about a month to go before his birthday on Sept 16, residents took the opportunity to celebrate the occasion. Mr Lee was presented with a cake made up of more than 200 cupcakes arranged in the shape of Singapore.

Said education consultant Ho Weng Kee, 52: "I belong to the generation that has benefited from his leadership and I hope he will be around for many more years to come."

Fun new read for pre-school kids
By Melissa Lin, The Straits Times, 17 Aug 2013

A NEW resource for promoting bilingualism in pre-schools was launched yesterday by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Thumbs Up Little Junior is a fortnightly Chinese language publication developed by Lianhe Zaobao and targeted at Kindergarten 1 and 2 children.

It includes picture stories, local and foreign news, nursery rhymes, comics, games and activities. The 12-page full colour newspaper, supported by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism, aims to get children to pick up the reading habit at a young age.

Its editor, Ms Ong Hui Yong, said: "The pre-school newspaper makes use of colourful illustrations to attract the attention of young readers." The first issue was published on Aug 9.

Free copies of the publication are distributed to all pre-school centres run by Voluntary Welfare Organisations and centres operated by the PAP Community Foundation and NTUC First Campus.

"I am heartened to see the children enjoying the stories and activities in the Thumbs Up Little Junior," Mr Heng said of the launch, held at NTUC My First Skool childcare centre at Yung An Road.

The publication is also available via subscription at $1.20 per copy. Those interested in subscribing can call 6319-8533 or 6319-2212. They can also email or


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