More opportunities to use the mother tongue need to be created outside the classroom if the next generation of Singaporeans are to improve bilingual proficiency, Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat said on Saturday.
"Make it a language of use, and a language that's in use, rather than one that they only study in school," he urged.
Referring to how a growing number of Singaporeans prefer to converse in English or come from English-speaking homes, Mr Heng said that "it is a trend that makes it harder for us to teach the mother tongue languages well and that's why we have to redouble our efforts".
Encouraging children to take part in cultural community events and their parents to also make more of an effort to use their mother tongue at home are some important ways to increase the exposure to these languages, he added.
Mr Heng was speaking to The Sunday Times on the sidelines of the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan's 84th anniversary gala dinner held at the Mandarin Orchard.
The Huay Kuan is the umbrella body of clan associations for people from eight Teochew districts in China's Guangdong province.
Numbering about 560,000, they are Singapore's second-largest Chinese community group after the Hokkiens.
Cracks in the clan's unity seemed to have appeared over the past year, but new Huay Kuan president George Quek swept such talk aside.