We believe that all students should be allowed to develop their mother tongue. We recognise the strength and the great benefits of learning one’s mother tongue as well as of deepening the understanding of one’s own culture.The mother tongue language is an integral part of the student’s identity and a strong connection to a home culture leads to better self-esteem, intercultural awareness, and international-mindedness.
For our Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents, we comply with the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Mother Tongue Language (MTL) Requirements. Click here to access the school policy on MTL Requirements.
We also strongly believe that, in an ever-changing linguistic world, students should endeavour to achieve a high level of competence in two languages. This is shown through the continued study of the mother tongue, and an additional language.
Not only does the study of two languages enable our students to communicate effectively in an increasingly global context, but it also empowers them to understand the cultures of other people. Through language learning, we expose students to various societies and people who speak and use these languages, thereby providing students with a more holistic understanding and appreciation of other languages.
In all Grades, we offer a range of languages on different pathways according to the varying needs of our students.
The level descriptors for the Chinese ILR scale referenced in the diagram above can be found here.
In Grades 7 and 8, students follow an in-house Foundation IGCSE curriculum.
- In the 1st Language pathway, we offer a variety of options. Firstly, we offer Chinese. This is designed for students who have attained Level 6 and above in the admissions test for new students or common assessments (equivalent to ILR level 4 and above).
- For those students who have another home language, there is the option of participating in our parent-funded Home Language Programme. We are currently offering Japanese, French, Korean, Italian, German, Russian, Vietnamese and Thai in this programme; however, we aim to increase the number of languages offered. Please contact the Head of Home Languages for further information.
- In the 2nd Language pathway, we offer Chinese, Tamil, and Hindi. For Chinese, this pathway is designed for students who have attained Level 4 and above in the admissions test for new students or common assessments (equivalent to ILR level 3 and above).
- In the Foreign Language pathway, we offer Chinese, Spanish, Malay and Indonesian. Spanish is a course for beginners, and this Chinese pathway is for students whose level of prior experience is not sufficient for the 2nd Language class. There is also the opportunity to study a language as a Foreign Language as part of the Home Languages Programme for students who already have prior experience studying the language, or in order to fulfil the Mother Tongue Language-in-lieu requirements set by the Ministry of Education.
These courses then lead to the following examination courses in Grade 9 and 10:
1st Language examinations
- IGCSE First Language Chinese (for 1st Language Chinese classes); and
- IGCSE Bahasa Indonesia (aimed at students for whom Indonesian is a language of everyday use).
- Examinations for other Home Languages as appropriate (depending on the language studied).
2nd Language examinations
- IGCSE Chinese as a Second Language (for 2nd Language Chinese classes);
- IGCSE Hindi as a Second Language; and
- GCE O Level Higher Tamil, or Tamil (or B Syllabus, subject to approval)
Foreign Language examinations
- IGCSE Mandarin Chinese (for Foreign Language Chinese classes);
- IGCSE Spanish;
- IGCSE Malay
Please click here for more information about the nature of the various IGCSE examinations for Chinese.
For the IB Diploma Programme in Grades 11 and 12:
- In Group 1, we offer Chinese A, Indonesian A, Japanese A, Korean A, Vietnamese A and any other Home Language A as required.
- In Group 2, we offer Chinese B (SL/HL), Malay B, Tamil B, Hindi B(SL/HL), Spanish B (SL/HL) and any other Home Language B as required as a continuation from IGCSE.
- We also offer ab initio (beginner) courses in Spanish, and subject to demand, French, Indonesian, Japanese (parent-funded) and Chinese (as well as other languages to which a student has a cultural, but little to no linguistic, connection) .
For more information on English A and English B courses, please see the English Faculty webpage.
Our philosophy is to maximise the benefits of both ‘teacher-centered’ and ‘student-centered’ learning. In the former, we design language lessons and activities that provide for systematic learning so as to prepare students for practical language use and an appreciation of literature and cultures. In the student-centered approach, students are engaged through a wide range of activities in the classroom such as role-play, presentation, debate, games and singing. To support both approaches, we use a wide variety of teaching and learning resources such as textbooks, documentaries, movies, song lyrics, online video clips, mobile apps, literature texts, newspapers, and magazines. Assignments and assessments are varied so that our students are aware of their strengths and areas for improvement.
In line with the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programme introduced in 2017, students' learning has been enhanced through the use of Google Apps such as Docs, Sheets, Slides, Maps, and Forms. This also allows for collaborative learning amongst the students. Other online portals and platforms such as Quizlet, Kahoot, LucidPress, Google Meet are used to further enhance and enrich students' learning experience.
For Chinese, we have a streaming system in place to ensure that students are placed in the course that is best for their level of language competency. For all languages, differentiation is used to ensure that students of different language levels are able to reach their potential.
We also organise peer support for students who need extra help: Grade 11 and 12 Chinese
Students help their juniors with their Chinese during lunch hours. We offer a Conversational Chinese CCA: an activity led by our teachers, designed to provide extra support to those students who have almost no foundation in Chinese but are eager to learn. Spanish Club and French Club CCAs are the main platforms through which peer mentoring takes place for these languages. Since Semester 1 of 2020, the school has supported the introduction of a German CCA and a Korean CCA, both of which are led by our Home Language Programme teachers.
To enhance our curricular provision, the Languages Faculty organises visits within Singapore to Chinese, Malay and Indonesian restaurants and heritage places, trips to Indian art performances and Chinese theatre shows, and the annual Malay Youth Seminar for G11 & G12 Malay B students. Students use the target language when asking questions during the trip, complete specific tasks and share their findings in different forms after the trip.
We furthermore offer language immersion and cultural trips to China and Spain annually or every two years depending on student demand.
Our students learn about and appreciate other cultures through a range of activities every year. Celebrations of traditional festivals are extended into lesson time: for example, during Chinese New Year, students from Chinese classes will learn paper-folding and paper-cutting, Chinese calligraphy and how to make glutinous rice balls. We also present four assemblies for different festivals: Lunar New Year, Vesak Day, Hari Raya Puasa and Deepavali. Our students and teachers participate in co-curricular activities to develop their interests, skills and passion beyond the classroom. For example, students learn how to play the Gamelan, perform cultural dances, sing various folk songs, and produce a Chinese online magazine, Sky.
Every year we organise inter-house Chinese competitions for Chinese classes from Grades 7 to 11. Our aim is to raise students' interest in Chinese language and culture, as well as to give students a platform to display their talents and abilities. There are different types of competitions for different levels, for example, a Chinese handwriting competition and an essay-writing competition. Our students also participate in various external Chinese competitions, such as in public speaking.
The Languages Faculty is led by Mr Ronak Punjabi.
At SJI International, we are very proud of our culturally and linguistically diverse community. We realise that it is very important for students to maintain ties to their home language and culture. In order to help our community with this hugely important task, we run a parent-funded Home Language Programme.
The aim of this programme is to help support the home language learning of students who are in our school community. Students will be encouraged to study their home language to a high proficiency and will be able to study this language through the IB Diploma, aiming to achieve a bilingual diploma (two groups 1 subjects: home language and English). There is a possibility of students studying their home language as a second language, depending on the language level of the student.
The Home Languages that we currently offer are Japanese, Korean, French, Thai, Vietnamese, German, Italian and Russian.
The importance of maintaining one's Home Language
Living away from the home language and culture means, for many of our expatriate families, that maintaining the language becomes increasingly difficult. The child could feel disconnected from the home culture, may not see the value in learning their home language and feel that English is more important. Research into language acquisition has discovered, however, that having a strong home language is crucial to the development of the child. The following has been proposed by Jim Cummins, a professor at the University of Toronto and an expert in the area of Home Language and First Language Acquisition. You can read the article about First Language Acquisition written by Jim Cummins here: the article also includes other links to First Language Acquisition research.
Reasons why students should maintain their Home Language:
- Students who are fully bilingual may have more flexibility in thinking as they are able to process information at a deeper level in more than one language.
- Students who have a strong first language are better learners of subsequent languages.
- Instruction in the Home Language helps students not only develop their mother tongue, but will help them become better at English.
- Schools should cultivate a culture of additive bilingualism (where languages are added to a child) rather than subtractive bilingualism (where languages are subtracted from a child). This leads to the child feeling a sense of acceptance and self-worth and increases self-esteem.
The different types of bilingualism can be illustrated in the following diagrams: (Cummins, J. 1981, Bilingualism and minority language children, Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education)
This image shows Additive Bilingualism. This child has both a strong first and second language, which is fully supported by a developed, common underlying proficiency where the ability of abstract thought and deeper cognitive processes are common between two languages.
The goal of this programme
At SJI International we aim to create an environment in which students can experience Additive Bilingualism by maintaining and developing their Home Language in conjunction with developing their English skills.
The Home Language Programme is for students whose language is not currently taught as part of our school curriculum. The Home Language Programme is also for students who have a strong cultural connection to another language, perhaps through family members or spending an extended amount of time in another country. It also caters for students who are studying a MOE Mother Tongue-in-lieu language. The aim of this programme is to provide a pathway for students through to the IB Diploma, and in most cases, to study two first languages and therefore achieve a Bilingual Diploma.
These teachers come to the school, during the timetabled language periods, for two lessons per week. For the third lesson, students are given self-study work to be completed for the following week. Students, if they have been studying Chinese, Tamil, Malay, Indonesian, Hindi or Spanish as part of the normal school curriculum, are withdrawn from their current timetabled additional language once they join the Home Language Programme.
Depending on the level of the student, they will be able to study their home language at either a first or second language level. As these are two distinct courses with different objectives and curriculum goals, first language and second language students will not be taught together in the same class.
Whom this programme is for
In the first instance, this programme is for students studying on Dependent and Student passes whose home language that is not English or another language taught in school. On a case-by-case basis, this programme may also be extended to Singaporean Citizens or Singaporean Permanent residents who have been exempted from the MOE Language policy and who have a home language which is not English, Chinese, Malay or Tamil, or students who have MOE approval to study a Mother Tongue–in–lieu provided that they are of at least an intermediate level and not a beginner in that language.
Teachers of Home Languages
We endeavour to find Home Language teachers who are experienced with different levels of language ability in the classroom. Teachers are encouraged to use a variety of differentiation strategies, often engaging students in self- or group-directed project work or by utilising the abundant range of authentic Home Language resources found on the Internet. Our Home Language teachers also maintain student interest by engaging in active learning. Students will be encouraged to share their thoughts and opinions, and engage in learning activities that stretch them and encourage linguistic and cognitive growth. Students will also be encouraged to engage in cultural activities, to promote stronger connections to their home country. In addition, the Home Language teachers will use the material to interest the students and to motivate them to continue studying their Home Language.
If there are students who would like to study a language not currently offered as part of the Home Language Programme, the school will endeavour to find a qualified and experienced native speaker. We will place an advertisement and conduct interviews for the most suitable candidate.
The Home Language curriculum
Home Language teachers work with the Head of Home Languages to create a curriculum pathway for students to study their home language up through the IB Diploma. The curriculum mirrors, but is not limited to, the progression of skills which is taught in English class and both language and literature will be taught.
How learning is measured
At SJI International, students complete a variety of formative and summative assessments. At the end of Grade 10, students in the home language programme will attempt an appropriately levelled examination. The appropriate examination (preferably externally accredited) is decided in consultation with the teacher and the parent. Students can also continue studying this language through the IB diploma as either a first or a second language, depending on the child's language level.
The cost will fluctuate depending on how many students are in the class. The number of students in the class may fluctuate throughout your child's career, mainly due to the transitional nature of expatriate families.
Please contact the Head of Home Languages with any further questions/queries you may have about the Home Language Programme.
Cummins, J. 1981, Bilingualism and minority language children, Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education)
Cummins, J, 2000. Language, Power and Pedagogy: Bilingual Children in the Crossfire. Multilingual Matters: United Kingdom