Language, Capital, Culture

Critical Studies and Education in Singapore


Singapore has been taken by many researchers as a fascinating living language policy and planning laboratory. Language and education policy in Singapore has been pivotal not only to the establishment and growth of schooling, but to the very project of nation building. Since their inception, ‘mother tongue’ policies have been established with two explicit goals. Firstly there is the development and training of human and intellectual capital for the expansion and networking of a Singaporean service and information economy. Secondly there is the maintenance of cultural heritage and values as a means for social cohesion and, indeed, the maintenance of community and regional social capital. These tasks have been fraught with tension and contradiction, both in relation to the conditions of rapid cultural, economic and political change in Asia and globally, but as well because of the tensions between the so called ‘world language English’ and Singapore’s three other official languages, Tamil, Malay and Mandarin. This has been complicated, of course, by the challenges of vibrant regional dialects and the emergence of Singlish as a powerful medium of community life.

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