In 1959, after the
first general elections, moves were made to form a
national identity. Malay was chosen as the National
Language. The Malay language was seen as important as
it would create a link between Malaya and Singapore.
This would improve the chances of Malaya and
A special policy for
Malay education was implemented. Malays were entitled
to free education, received special bursaries,
scholarships, free textbooks and transport.
The Standard VII
classes were discontinued and the first Malay
secondary school was opened.
In an effort to break
down walls of cultural and linguistic separation, the
government proposed a uniform curriculum for all
streams. A common Primary School Leaving Examination
(PSLE) with common syllabuses for all streams was
Increased aid was
provided to the vernacular schools. Secondary
education in vernacular languages was also
introduced. There were also provisions for Chinese
In line with the
Chinese schools system, a 6-day week was introduced
in all schools. The 3-3 system (3 years lower
secondary and 3 years upper secondary) of the Chinese
secondary school was converted to the 4-2 system (4
years lower secondary and 2 years pre-university)
following the English stream.
These, however, became
controversial issues. The Chinese schools objected to the 4-2 system, as having
an elimination exam after four years would deprive
many students of two more years of education. The
English stream schools were also not satisfied with
the introduction of Saturday classes.
Although measures were
taken to ensure equality in treatment, moves which
should make Chinese-medium education more attractive,
there was a decrease of enrolment in Chinese-stream
schools. As English still enjoyed a high status in
politics, commerce, society and institutes of higher
learning, Chinese stream students had less
opportunities for jobs and further education.
external exams were in English. As such, Chinese
stream students often had trouble excelling in these
Another reason which
contributed to the decline in enrolment was the
political activities that were rampant in Chinese
schools then. Parents became reluctant to send their
children to Chinese schools for fear that they would
be involved in these activities.
Next: Milestones in education
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