'Doing well in English is important'

Indian students are doing better in exams, especially in mathematics.

But more can be done to bridge the performance gap betwen them and their peers, including doing well in English, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah.

Ms Indranee, who is president of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), was commenting on statistics released by the Ministry of Education last week on students' performance in national examinations over the last decade.

Last year, 80 per cent of Indian students taking the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scored C and above in mathematics compared to 72.4 per cent in 2003. Despite this improvement, 96.3 per cent of Indian students scored C and above in English for the PSLE last year - a dip when compared to the 97.5 per cent who did so in 2003.

Ms Indranee stressed that English is fundamental in doing well for all the other subjects, especially maths and science.

"Our students must have a good foundation in English so that they can understand the complex problems in maths and science, especially when they start post-secondary education," she said.

On the other hand, Indian students have done well in O-level English and Mother Tongue subjects compared to previous years and have done better than the national average which is a commendable effort, she said.

Last year, 91.1 per cent of Indian students taking their O levels passed English, a figure that is higher then the national average of 87.6 per cent.

Ms Indranee added that SINDA is making an effort to create awareness of basic education in Singapore as some parents are still ignorant about it.

"It is our duty to encourage them and educate them on the importance of basic education," Ms Indranee said.

She said many parents did not know that they could get financial help through various organisations and added that money should not be a reason to deprive children of their basic education rights.

Relating her own experience, Ms Indranee said one of the parents whom she met during her meet-the-people session did not send their child to school due to financial issues.

"It has been scientifically proven that students do much better in their studies and life as a whole when parents make an effort to sit with them and quench their curiosity. This small act doesn't require money," she said.

Ms Indranee urged schools, grassroots, community centres and other organisations apart from SINDA to come on board to help low-income students. It did not matter which organisation gave students help. What mattered was that the students improved, she said.

And there are positive signs. Looking at how Indian students had fared relative to their peers through the years, Ms Indranee said: "Since everyone is doing well in all the subjects, the national average has increased - which is a good sign. But compared to the previous years the gap has narrowed."

The challenge now, said Ms Indranee, was to do better than the national average or at least be on a par.


Wilson Silas David is a journalist with Tamil Murasu.

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