Allowing more students to study higher Chinese will boost the language and culture here, suggested Singapore Chinese Teachers' Union (SCTU) president Lian Hwee Eng yesterday.
Speaking at the union's 60th anniversary celebrations in Pasir Ris, she urged for restrictions to be eased. Currently, only pupils who do well in the Primary School Leaving Examination can opt to take higher Chinese in secondary schools.
"Some primary school pupils may be good in Chinese, but because their English or mathematics is not good they are encouraged to forgo higher Chinese to put more time into those subjects," she said.
Her suggestion was one of many raised yesterday to encourage more Singaporeans to embrace Chinese language and culture.
Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat, the guest of honour, hopes to see more take up grants, like the ones offered by the National Arts Council, to write Chinese books and plays.
He added that arts groups can foster greater appreciation of Chinese through their productions.
Social groups can also help children from lower-income families in their Mandarin, while clan associations can do their part by, say, bringing martial arts and calligraphy to the public.
The 1,700-strong union was founded in 1953 to look after the welfare of Chinese teachers. Since then, its scope has widened to include running short courses for teachers and reading clubs. It also has collaborations with overseas schools.
The Chinese Department of Fudan University in China, for example, runs a Chinese language and literature doctoral programme in Singapore with the union.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, some 40 members will also attend the 6th International Chinese Teaching Forum in Kunming, China in November.
Highlights of the forum will be included in a special 60th anniversary commemorative book expected to be out early next year.
The union gave out book prizes of between $80 and $150 to 56 children of its members yesterday.
Madam Lian said the 60th anniversary was testimony to the hard work of generations of Chinese teachers.
"Just as a person's 60th birthday is a momentous occasion, this is also a milestone for the union," she said, as she lauded the passion and creativity of teachers here.
Ngee Ann Secondary School's Mr Thong Wee Sin was one of more than 200 teachers who attended yesterday's event.
Mr Thong, 43, said he gets his students to discuss local and school issues in Mandarin as a way to keep the language relevant.
"The students usually talk to each other in English, so asking them to converse about the same events in Chinese can build their confidence," he said.