SINGAPORE - Students who have a better grasp of Chinese should be encouraged to raise the bar for themselves and keep the language alive, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Wednesday (Sept 12).
"We must continue to groom these children who love Chinese," he said in Mandarin.
"We must encourage them to further their study of the language in tertiary institutions, and when they graduate, they can be a new force for the Chinese language in Singapore."
He added that at secondary and post-secondary levels, students can choose Chinese language courses that vary in their degree of difficulty, so they should not be held to identical standards.
Mr Ong was addressing 1,000 educators and scholars at the opening ceremony of an international conference hosted by the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language (SCCL) at Suntec Convention Centre.
The two-day conference will focus on the topic of teaching and learning Chinese as a second language. It aims to help Chinese educators adapt their teaching style to keep up with the times, while retaining their existing knowledge.
Dr Foo Suan Fong, executive director of the SCCL, said in his opening address: "In the 21st century, change is the only constant. This also applies to how we teach language."
Mr Ong also said that students who are better in Chinese should be provided with classes fitting for their level, such as classes on Chinese literature.
"Our mother tongue languages are the cornerstone of Singapore's education system," he said. "Learning languages is equivalent to learning about cultures, values and the philosophy of life.
"These help to cultivate a sense of belonging and familiarity in Singaporeans, and give us confidence in facing what lies ahead. In a globalising world, this confidence is important."