Let more students pick up a third language

I agree with Ms Lim Lih Mei that learning a third language should be encouraged among students ("Do more to help students learn foreign language"; Forum Online, last Monday).

We live in a globalised world, where interacting with people of different cultures has become a norm. Thus, being proficient in multiple languages will be an important skill for the citizen of tomorrow.

However, our education system places considerable restrictions on students in acquiring such proficiencies. The opportunity to learn a third language remains the preserve of top students.

Without the support of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) Language Centre, where third languages can be learnt at relatively cheaper rates, students have to rely on private language centres, such as the Goethe-Institut.

While these institutions provide good instruction, they are often out of the reach of many students from lower-income groups, as they charge higher fees.

Though our bilingual policy has gone some way towards helping our students prepare themselves for a globalised world, it is somewhat limited in that its purpose is to allow students to get in touch with their cultural roots rather than to cater to their future ambitions.

Students must study the mother tongue they are allocated based on their ethnicity and are rarely able to substitute it for another language.

Language proficiency should not be restricted to the academic elite.

The MOE should make the acquisition of third language skills more easily available to willing students.

It should consider a review of the secondary school curriculum to create an option for students to study a third language.

Moreover, it should offer students an equal number of choices, rather than limiting them based on the students' PSLE scores.

Ng Qi Siang