"Successive generations of students paid a heavy price," MM says.

MM Lee: My insistence on bilingualism was wrong

“Successive generations of students paid a heavy price, because of my ignorance, by my insistence on bilingualism.”

MM Lee Kuan Yew

Video from Channelnewsasia

Excerpts from Channelnewsasia report:

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said his insistence on bilingualism in the early years of education policy was “wrong”. Instead it caused generations of students to be put off by the Chinese language.

Speaking first in Mandarin and then in English at the official opening of the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language on Tuesday, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew gave a blunt assessment of Singapore’s bilingual policy.

He said: “We started the wrong way. We insisted on ting xie (listening), mo xie (dictation) – madness! We had teachers who were teaching in completely-Chinese schools. And they did not want to use any English to teach English-speaking children Chinese and that turned them off completely.”

Mr Lee added: “At first I thought, you can master two languages. Maybe different intelligence, you master it at different levels.”

But his conclusions now, after over 40 years of learning Mandarin, cannot be more different.

MM Lee said: “Nobody can master two languages at the same level. If (you think) you can, you’re deceiving yourself. My daughter is a neurologist, and late in my life she told me language ability and intelligence are two different things.

Read the full report here.