In his first comments on the controversial issue of reducing the weighting of mother tongue in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said that Singaporeans must 'face the reality' that the English and Chinese languages do not have equal status in Singapore society.
'Many citizens objected when the Education Minister wanted to reduce the weighting,' he said, in Mandarin, during a dialogue at the joint conference of Confucius Institutes in Asia yesterday.
'But they don't understand. At the moment, the languages are already unequal. On paper they may count for the same, but in reality they do not.'
Respond to the facts, live with the reality or face the consequences.
MM Lee's remarks yesterday were in response to a question from Associate Professor Lai Ah Keow, an adviser to the Confucius Institute in Singapore, based at the Nanyang Technological University. A strong believer in bilingualism and even trilingualism, he lamented that parents in Singapore put too much emphasis on their children improving their English, at the expense of other languages.
Good luck to Prof Lai. In the end parents here will be realistic.
The PM and his ministers has backed down but it is a matter of time when the political ground becoes softer that they would reduce the weighting of Mother Tongue. If not, they would just find yet another of those clumsy equivalents to achieve the same.