Teaching grammar in Singapore

NB Singapore came first in the 2015 PISA test. Three languages are recognised as home languages: Chinese, Malay and Tamil, but English is the main language of instruction, generally learned as L2.

Information from Kai Low and Frances Loke Wei.

  • English teachers will be trained/familiarized with a text by Lubna Alsagoff: A Visual Grammar of English during their time in teachers’ college.
  • There’s an observable shift in teaching at the primary level where students are taught the grammatical rules in context e.g. Spelling tests used to be spelling a word. These days, teachers come up with sentences allowing students to see how to use the word.
  • Grammatical patterns such as “either… or…”, “despite…” are taught and tested at primary level in a section (of a typical test paper) called Synthesis and Transformation (synthesizing two independent clauses). [This teaching method is called sentence-combining in the USA.]
  • At the secondary level, I don’t think there is much emphasis on grammar. The focus at the secondary level seems to be on comprehension skills (i.e. inference, summary, paraphrasing). …  most English teachers are usually literature-trained and hence will not be as well equipped to teach grammar.
  • Based on my education in the public school system, I haven’t been trained to analyse my L1 until English Literature class in secondary school and English Language & Linguistics (ELL) class in junior college. In fact, there’s very little conscious learning of grammar and comparative grammar such that L2 speakers of English might be even more familiar of those points than L1 speakers of English in Singapore. … Metalinguistic awareness isn’t something that is always explored, for me, up until ELL in junior college. In fact, my ELL tutor in junior college was appalled when many of her ELL students were unable to identify parts of speech while analysing some texts — mostly because such a ‘skill’ wasn’t foregrounded in our learning of English.
  • Students who are passionate in English (and its grammar) can then pursue H2 English Language and Linguistics (ELL) at A levels. This is where students are taught SFG. I believe this is similar to the UK’s A levels English.

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