1987 年 1987 巻 84 号 p. 95-117,L11
Singapore is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nation. Its 2.4 million population consists of 77 percent Chinese, 15 percent Malays, 6 percent Indians, and 2 percent Others; It has four official languages, Chinese (Mandarin), Malay, Tamil, representing its three major ethnic communities, and English, reflecting its colonial past. Each ethnic community is further divided into a number of subgroups either in mother tongue or in the language of education or both. Most Singaporeans, moreover, are relatively new migrants who still maintain human, cultural, and/or emotional ties with their ancestral lands. These divisive factors could pose a threat to the security of the city-state and have prompted its government to create a common language for national indentity.
The effort was initiated by the British shortly after World War II, anticipating the independence of the then Crown Colony. English was chosen as the common language mainly for political reasons. Firstly, English was affiliated with none of the major ethnic communities and easier for all to accept than any other language. Secondly, English had been used for inter-ethnic communication and its speakers, though relatively few, were a multi-ethnic group. Thirdly, having been the only official language, the high status and prestige of English was well established. Finally, above all, those educated in English were politically docile and tolerant of ethnic and linguistic differences, as compared with the majority Chinese educated, whose strong sense of identity with China and political activism constituted a security problem.
The problem of the Chinese educated derived from the prewar education system of four language streams separate from one another in every respect, under which Chinese-medium schools had been allowed to inculcate their pupils loyalty to China. Worse still, the Chinese educated with little knowledge of English, the dominant language, were left out of prestigeous and well-paid jobs and tended to be discontented and prone to Communist influence. As the postwar British policy of promoting English-medium education proved successful in drawing more and more pupils away from Chinese schools, the Chinese community feared that Chinese education was in danger of extinction. The 1950s saw mass upheavals against the policy of “killing Chinese education” interlocked with militant labour movements. The straight-forward policy of favouring English thus effected more division than integration, contrary to what it was expected to attain.
In 1955, the first elected government of Singapore adopted a new policy based on two principles, i. e., equal treatment of the four official languages and promoting English as the common language. The twin principles were mutually contradictory. If the first was strictly observed, the second was impossible, and vice versa. But the government had to stick to the principle of equality in order to prevent the explosion of communal emotion. On the other hand, promotion of English was imperative for national integration and had to be done tactfully. The new policy secured broad consensus and formed the basis of Singapore's language policy thereafter. Under this policy, bilingual education was introduced with English and one of the three other languages made compulsory; official aid was extended equally to all schools; and unified curriculum was adopted for all the language streams. English retained its importance and continued to increase its weight in education.
After Independence in 1965, Singapore embarked on a development strategy of becoming a Global City. The government of the People's Action Party (PAP) emphasized English education, for the spread of English, the language of international business and modern technology, was needed for economic development. The remarkable success of the strategy in the past two decades raised the economic value of English and accelerated the influx of pupils from the non-English