A member of the public, Rajiv George Aricat, wrote to ST Forum complaining about the fee increase of Hindi language classes in Singapore. His letter was published on Straits Times today (‘Forum: Fees for Hindi language classes increased without advance notice‘, 6 Feb). It’s not known if Mr Aricat is a Singaporean.
He wrote, “The introduction of non-Tamil Indian languages in the school curriculum has done its part to strengthen Singapore’s multicultural ethos. Identifying the diversity of Indian cultures in the population, the Government has recognised five other Indian languages in the curriculum: Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi and Urdu.”
But he noticed that recently, the Hindi Society which offers the study of the Hindi language for students has raised the fees for Hindi language classes by as much as 50 per cent.
“Hindi draws the highest number of Indian students after Tamil in Singapore,” Mr Aricat noted.
“This has to do with the status that the language enjoys in India. Indian students who do not have the option of learning their original mother tongue, such as those from Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, often opt to learn Hindi.”
He complained that the Hindi Society revised its fees for this year without any advance notice.
“This is in contrast with MOE, which released the fee schedule for three years in 2017 to provide certainty and allow parents to plan in advance,” he added.
“For some students, fees have jumped from $60 a month to $90 a month. Can the Hindi Society justify this increase?”
Special considerations by MOE for non-Tamil students of Indian ethnicity
Indeed, according to the website of the Ministry of Education (MOE), it said that MOE supports students to study their mother tongue language (MTL) to “as high a level as possible”.
“Having an appreciation of MTL cultures enhances Singapore’s multicultural identity and fosters social cohesion in our daily lives,” it said.
It further added that students in Singapore schools are required to offer an official MTL (Chinese, Malay or Tamil) in school. However, non-Tamil speaking students of Indian ethnicity can apply to offer a non-Tamil Indian language like Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu.
Students will then sit for their respective MTL examination at the PSLE and the GCE examinations.
It’s not known why MOE shows special considerations only for non-Tamil speaking students of Indian ethnicity when there are students of other ethnicity exist in Singapore. For example, MOE could have also offered Burmese and Tagalog as mother tongue languages in the interest of enhancing “Singapore’s multicultural identity and fosters social cohesion” in Singapore too.
In any case, according to Article 153A of the Singapore Constitution, the 4 official languages of Singapore currently are stated as Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English.