Saturday, 12 July 2014

PM Lee: Bilingual policy kept Mandarin alive

Govt committed to helping Singaporeans master mother tongue
Initiatives such as bilingual policy helped keep Mandarin alive: PM
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has addressed concerns that Mandarin standards are slipping in a speech to mark the 75th anniversary of Chung Cheng High School, one of the first here to teach both English and Chinese at first-language level.

He also stressed that the Government remains committed to its goal to help all Singaporeans master their mother tongue to the best of their ability.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Lee said it was not appropriate to compare today's social and linguistic environment with that of the 1950s, when schools taught either in English or Chinese but not in both languages.

He also highlighted the critical role of the Government's language policies in safeguarding the learning and use of the Chinese language.

"If we did not introduce the bilingual policy, promote Mandarin and start Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools, Singapore today might be a completely English-speaking society," he said.

Given an environment where English is the lingua franca and working language, it has not been easy to maintain Singaporeans' Mandarin standard at the level it is today, he added.

In that interview, released last week, he said that while Chinese standards may have slipped, he remained optimistic that Singapore could achieve about 95 per cent of its desired outcome in mastering the language.

Yesterday, he elaborated on this further, pledging that the Government would continue to work hard and do its best to help Singaporeans achieve their highest potential in their mother tongues.

Besides the support given to SAP schools, it has also extended resources to all schools to help more students excel in Mandarin.

Last year, 30 per cent of Chinese students took Higher Chinese at the O levels, almost double the rate in 2000, he noted. And some 100,000 teachers, parents and students take part in programmes by the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning every year.

These examples show that the Government's multi-faceted efforts to promote Mandarin have been effective, he said.

It aims to "ensure that all Singaporeans stay rooted in their mother tongue and culture, have good values and do not forget their roots". These are values that Chung Cheng has always taught its students, and were why SAP schools were set up, he said.

But at the start, it was not clear if SAP schools would succeed, said Mr Lee. It was a challenge for students to master Chinese and English at first-language level given the environment then. Many parents also wanted their children to study English instead of Chinese, as the former was perceived to have more economic value.

But the Government put in resources, teachers and students worked hard, and parents gave their support.

"All SAP schools submitted a beautiful report card in the end. You could say they all passed," said Mr Lee.

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Seng Han Thong, who is Chinese-educated, said the bilingual policy aimed to counter the trend of parents sending their children to English-language schools, and help every student speak his mother tongue, at least at a basic level.

The policy's "net gain" is that the younger generation can communicate in Mandarin and English, rather than each group speaking its own dialect, as in the past.

Last night, banker Wee Cho Yaw, who has chaired the Chung Cheng school management committee for almost 20 years, announced that the gala dinner had raised some $2 million to be used for bursaries and the school's future development.

Singapore might be completely English-speaking without bilingual policy: PM
Channel NewsAsia, 10 Jul 2014

If Singapore did not introduce the bilingual policy, it might be a completely English-speaking society. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said as a result of introducing Special Assistance Schools or SAP schools, there are students who are bilingual and bicultural.

He said this in a Mandarin speech at Chung Cheng High School (Main)'s 75th anniversary gala dinner held on Thursday (10 July). Mr Lee said some Singaporeans told him they are concerned that the standard of Mandarin here is no longer as good as before. In response, he said we should not compare today's standards of Mandarin with the 1950s.

"We need to take a different perspective: If we did not introduce the bilingual policy, promote Mandarin, and start SAP schools, Singapore might be a completely English-speaking society. To achieve the standards of Mandarin we have now, in an environment where English is the lingua franca, is quite an improvement," said Mr Lee.

He added that the objective is to help every Singaporean learn Mother Tongue to as high a level as he is capable of.

SAP schools like Chung Cheng High were set up to develop bicultural and bilingual students firmly-rooted in Chinese traditions and identity, while being well-integrated in a multi-cultural and multi-racial Singapore.

Mr Lee also commended an old boy that exemplifies the Chung Cheng spirit of giving back to the community - Mr Wee Cho Yaw, who is the former UOB Chairman.

Mr Lee said he served the school management committee for nearly half a century and made significant contributions such as providing strong support of school activities, especially to promote biculturalism and preserve school values and traditions.

At the same event, Mr Lee announced that two iconic buildings of Chung Cheng High School (Main) located at Goodman Road have been gazetted as a National Monument by the National Heritage Board (NHB). Together, they form Singapore's 66th National Monument. 

Mr Lee said one of Chung Cheng's biggest strengths is the support it receives from the community. Funds raised from tonight's dinner will go towards developing the school.

[Singapore’s 66th National Monument]The Chung Cheng High School (Main) Administration Building and Entrance Arch was...
Posted by National Heritage Board on Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chung Cheng High School gazetted as national monument
Institution also celebrates rich cultural history on 75th anniversary
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2014

A RICH heritage in the arts and the spirit of "yin shui si yuan" - the Chinese saying for remembering one's roots - are qualities Chung Cheng High School will celebrate to mark its 75th anniversary.

As part of the festivities, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday officiated at a ceremony to gazette its administration building and the entrance arch of its main campus as a combined national monument.

The two structures are part of the Chung Cheng family's collective memory, principal Pang Choon How of Chung Cheng High School (Main) said yesterday.

The administration building, designed in the Chinese National style, has been the school's "heartbeat", he added.

It was completed in 1968, with funds raised over 20 years. Officially opened by former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, the building housed the largest auditorium in Singapore at the time.

Mr Pang said the building has housed, over the years, performing arts and sports activities, the old library and, today, the school's heritage gallery.

He praised the forefathers for the legacy and their vision, foresight and perseverance.

The administration building and the arch will be Singapore's 66th national monument. It joins nine other school buildings which have also been preserved.

Urban planner and chairman of the Centre for Liveable Cities Liu Thai Ker, a Chung Cheng alumnus, said the gazetting shows the Government recognises the importance of historical buildings.

"The architectural style is quite distinctly Chinese. Recognising it is reinforcing the importance of respect for tradition."

Also celebrated yesterday was the school's rich cultural history and its reputation for grooming a pantheon of artistic talents from the late 1940s to 1960s.

PM Lee opened the new Lim Tze Peng art gallery, named after the artist and Cultural Medallion winner who donated some 100 artworks to his alma mater.

Mr Lim, 94, said it was an honour to give back. He was from a poor family, and the school had let him study for free and even given him a job at the school office.

"Chung Cheng loves me and I love my alma mater, too," he said in Mandarin.

He hopes his works will inspire students to be interested in art.

Dr Liu, 76, had been tutored by Mr Lim in art and calligraphy when he was in school. His father, pioneer artist Liu Kang, had also taught there. Reminiscing about the vibrant art and Chinese drama scene, Dr Liu said: "There was a strong emphasis on history, culture and tradition.

"It became part of the overall ambience of Chung Cheng."

8 things to know about Chung Cheng High, Singapore's latest National Monument
By Cheow Sue Ann, The Straits Times, 10 Jul 2014

Chung Cheng High celebrates its 75th birthday on July 10 with a gala dinner at its main campus at Goodman Road. On the same night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will officiate and announce another milestone in the school's already rich history.

The school has played a vital role in Singapore's culture and history since its establishment in 1939. The iconic buildings belonging to its main campus - the Administration Building (Zhulin Building) and the Entrance Arch - will be gazetted as a National Monument by the National Heritage Board (NHB). The two buildings will form Singapore's 66th National Monument.

Here are eight things you need to know about the school:

1. It was named after Chiang Kai-shek

The school was named after Chiang Kai-shek, one of the 20th century's notable political figures. He was president of the Republic of China from 1948 to 1975.

While Chiang Kai-shek is a household name, few know that he was also known as Chiang Chung-cheng in Standard Chinese.

2. It began as an all-boys private school

It only started to admit girls after World War II in 1945.

3. It was founded by a businessman and helmed by a war hero

Did you know that the school was founded by several businessmen, including the first Chairman of the School Management Board, Aw Boon Haw?

Aw is famous for not only introducing Tiger Balm to Singapore, but also the establishment of Haw Par Villa.

Chung Cheng's first school supervisor was Lim Bo Seng, a World War II hero. Lim established the Force 136 to fight against the Japanese, only to be tortured by the Japanese regime in 1944.

4. The original campus in Kim Yam Road was the site of several riots

In 1954, the Kim Yam road campus was the site for demonstrations against compulsory national service where 2,500 male and female students locked themselves in Chung Cheng High School.

While the demonstration was quickly cleared, these actions did hamper the first big-scale attempt to recruit male youths for part-time national service.

In 1956, the school was also a hotbed for the leftist student movement under the influence of the communist underground.

As the Government began to clamp down more harshly on communism, students gathered and camped at Chung Cheng High School and The Chinese High School.

The police entered the schools and cleared the students using tear gas, forcing the students to head for the city. In total, 13 people were killed and more than 100 were injured.

5. It has two campuses

Chung Cheng High School is split into two branches, Chung Cheng High School (Main) and Chung Cheng High School (Yishun).

In August 1947, to cope with the increased student population, part of the school moved into a new school building in Goodman Road. The school located at 40-56 Goodman Road is named as Chung Cheng High School (Main).

The old school at Kim Yam road continued to function and was renamed Chung Cheng High School (Branch) and subsequently relocated to 11 Yishun Street 61 and became known as Chung Cheng High School (Yishun).

6. The gazetted buildings were designed by one of their own

The buildings classified as Singapore's latest National Monument were designed by Mr Ho Beng Heng, a Chung Cheng alumnus.

7. The architecture bears symbolic significance

The architectural style was the so-called Chinese National style. The Chinese National style was an architectural movement rooted in patriotism.

The Administration Building, which is constructed using reinforced concrete, follows a modern functional layout and displays Chinese architectural features such as the prominent double-tier roof with glazed Chinese tiles, and cloud and bat motifs.

The Entrance Arch sits on ornamented high stone pedestals and is decorated with stylised bat motifs, which are meant to represent good fortune and happiness.

Similarly, the path through the Entrance Arch towards the Administrative Building is symbolic of the students’ journey towards higher education and a promising future.

8. The school holds a Guiness World Record for Longest Can-Chaining Project

In 2005, Chung Cheng made a mark in the Guinness Book of Records for the World’s Longest Can-Chaining Project for charity.

The Can-Chaining Project saw the school chaining together some 45,000 used drink cans to emphasise the importance of conservation and recycling as a means to conserve the environment.

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