Special Assistance Plan

The Special Assistance Plan (SAP; Chinese: 特别辅助计划; pinyin: Tèbié Fǔzhù Jìhuà) is a programme in Singapore introduced in 1979[1] which caters to academically strong students who excel in both their mother tongue as well as English. It is available only in selected primary and secondary schools.[1] In a SAP school, several subjects may be taught in the mother tongue, alongside other subjects that are taught in English. SAP schools currently cater only to those studying Mandarin as their mother tongue although theoretically, future SAP schools for other mother tongues are a possibility.

List of schools edit

Special Assistance Plan schools (or SAP schools, Chinese: 特选学校) refers to schools that offers the Special Assistance Plan. The SAP is offered at both primary (elementary) school level as well as secondary (high school) level, in Special Assistance Plan primary schools (Chinese: 特选小学) and Special Assistance Plan high schools (Chinese: 特选中学) respectively.[1]

SAP Primary Schools edit

Name Type 2 Area Notes Website GEP
Ai Tong School 爱同学校 Mixed Bishan Affiliated to Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan[2] [1]
Catholic High School (Affiliated Primary School) 公教中学 (附小) Boys Bishan [2] Yes
CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls' School (Affiliated Primary School) 圣尼格拉女校 (小学部) Girls Ang Mo Kio [3]
Holy Innocents’ Primary School 圣婴小学 Mixed Hougang [4]
Hong Wen School 宏文学校 Mixed Kallang [5]
Kong Hwa School 光华学校 Mixed Geylang Affiliated to Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan[2] [6]
Maha Bodhi School 菩提学校 Mixed Geylang [7]
Maris Stella High School (Primary) 海星中学 (附小) Boys Toa Payoh [8]
Nan Hua Primary School 南华小学 Mixed Clementi [9] Yes
Nanyang Primary School 南洋小学 Mixed Bukit Timah [10] Yes
Pei Chun Public School 公立培群学校 Mixed Toa Payoh [11]
Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School 培华长老会小学 Mixed Bukit Timah [12]
Poi Ching School 培青学校 Mixed Tampines [13]
Red Swastika School 卍慈学校 Mixed Bedok [14]
Tao Nan School 道南学校 Mixed Marine Parade Affiliated to Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan[2] [15] Yes

SAP High Schools edit

Name Type School Code Area Notes Website
Anglican High School 圣公会中学 Mixed 7101 Tanah Merah Affiliated to: [16]
Catholic High School 公教中学 Boys IP: 9131

Special: 7102

Bishan Affiliated to: [17]
CHIJ Saint Nicholas Girls' School 圣尼各拉女校 Girls IP: 9134

Special: 7118

Ang Mo Kio Affiliated to: [18]
Chung Cheng High School (Main) 中正中学 (总校) Mixed 7104 Marine Parade Affiliated to: [19]
Dunman High School 德明政府中学 Mixed 3101 Tanjong Rhu [20]
Hwa Chong Institution 华侨中学 Boys 0806 Bukit Timah Offers the Hwa Chong Diploma ;

Affiliated to:

Maris Stella High School 海星中学 Boys 7111 Toa Payoh Affiliated to: [22]
Nan Chiau High School 南侨中学 Mixed 7112 Sengkang Affiliated to Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan[2] [23]
Nan Hua High School 南华中学 Mixed 3047 Clementi [24]
Nanyang Girls' High School 南洋女子中学校 Girls 7114 Bukit Timah Offers the Hwa Chong Diploma ;

Affiliated to:

River Valley High School 立化中学 Mixed 3103 Boon Lay [26]

Admission edit

A student's admission to a SAP school (or any secondary school for that matter) is decided based on their results in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). To enter a SAP school, a student must achieve a PSLE aggregate score that puts him in the top 10% of his cohort, with an 'A' grade for both the Chinese and English (before AL).

This means that only a relatively small group of students who are academically and linguistically strong may enter a SAP school. Consequently, SAP schools have a reputation of being the "elite" group of secondary schools in the country, alongside independent and autonomous schools. This stems from the Singaporean tradition of effective bilingualism in the education of the elite students from SAP schools. Some students, regardless of whether they are in a SAP school, are offered a chance at effective trilingualism in secondary education starting from age 13. The first language, English, is the international language of commercial and the administrative and legal language of Singapore, a former British colony. The mother tongue reflecting the cultural and ethnic identity of the student. The "third languages" are foreign and Asian languages which are considered by MOE to be "economically, politically and culturally vital",[3] such as Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese (Special Programme) and Malay (Special Programme). In order to qualify for these programmes, a student must obtain a PSLE score of AL8 or better for foreign language, and AL24 for Asian Language. [4]

Historical context edit

Many SAP schools were historically Chinese language medium schools, i.e. they taught all academic subjects in Mandarin (including science and mathematics), and which may have taught English as a foreign language. Following Singapore's independence in 1965, the government recognised four official languages in Singapore (English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil), but clearly designated English as the main language of basic and higher education, government and law, science and technology as well as trade and industry. This is reflected in the Bilingual Policy which came into effect in 1966.[5] While according official recognition to the languages of different ethno-linguistic communities in Singapore, it sought to promote English as a neutral common language to unite a culturally diverse nation of immigrants. English was also held to be the language of international higher education, science/technology and commerce. As such, it was indispensable to Singapore, given her ambition to become a 'Global City', articulated as early as 1972.[6]

As the English language gained importance, more parents inclined to send their child to English-medium schools, which adversely affected enrollment of Chinese-medium schools. In 1977, admission to Chinese-medium elementary schools made up only 10 per cent of the nation's cohort, which increasingly reflected the increasingly critical status of the Chinese-medium schools, in stark contrast over a decade.[7] The need to preserve traditional Chinese schools with rich heritage and culture became a pressing agenda for the government, with raising English standards and attracting capable students into such schools a key priority, as pointed out by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.[8]

In 1979, the Ministry of Education (MOE) designated nine Chinese-medium secondary schools as Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools. These schools were intended to provide top-scoring primary school leavers with the opportunity to study both English and Mandarin to high levels of competence. Also, these schools were to preserve the character of traditional Chinese-medium secondary schools and allay fears that the Government was indifferent to Chinese language and culture amid declining enrolments in Chinese-medium schools.[9] The selected schools were given additional teaching resources and given assistance to run classes with a lower student-to-teacher ratio.[7]

The programme was deemed highly successful with five of the designated schools consistently attaining top ten positions in the secondary school ranking in the 1990s, outperforming several established English-medium schools.[8] This supported the Government to further expand the programme to two other institutions with strong Chinese heritage, including Nan Chiau High School, which was initially listed as an SAP school candidate in 1978.[8][10] Six top performing SAP high schools are also approved by the Ministry of Education to offer Integrated Programme (IP) to their full cohort, with The Chinese High School, Nanyang Girls' High School being the piloting schools with Hwa Chong Junior College in 2004, followed by River Valley High School in 2006 and Dunman High School in 2008. Catholic High School and CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls' School were approved to offer Joint Integrated Programme in 2013 with Singapore Chinese Girls' School.

Societal significance edit

With rapid economic development and exposure to Western, particularly American popular culture and values in the 1970s and 1980s, Singapore began to change from a lower income, poorly educated society to a more confident, educated, vocal and individualistic society. Around the same time, in the 1980s, the world was witnessing the rise of Japan and the Asian newly-industrialised economies or NIEs, of which Singapore was one. Economically, America appeared unable to compete with rising Asian manufacturing competitors, especially Japan and was facing budget deficits. Singapore politicians from the dominant People's Action Party synthesised these various situations and developed certain ideas that came to be known as the Asian Values discourse.

According to this line of argument, Singapore, along with Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, had succeeded so spectacularly in no small part because of their shared Confucianist cultural heritage, which emphasised values such as hard work, education, family unity, deference and loyalty to authority figures, community spirit (in contrast to Western individualism), etc.

To better sell this argument to a multi-ethnic population where the non-Chinese / non-'Confucianist' communities formed at least a quarter of the population, the discourse was re-branded 'Asian Values', rather than Confucian Work Ethic. In Singapore, traditional Asian culture was seen as a source of the nation's economic success thus far. As such, the government embarked on programmes and campaigns to promote traditional culture, including the revitalised Speak Mandarin Campaign (targeted at English rather than dialect speakers, as was historically the case) as well as SAP schools.

Concerns and criticisms edit

The SAP school programme is periodically criticised in the national media by Singaporeans who are concerned about the ethnic segregation that it inevitably promotes. SAP schools offer mother tongue lessons in only one language: Mandarin.[11] This means that the vast majority, if not all, of the students in SAP schools will be ethnically Chinese. These students will have little opportunities to interact with people of other races, which can potentially cause issues in a multi-racial country like Singapore. Besides, the SAP does not have Malay or Tamil equivalents, which might be viewed by some as MOE not placing these two languages on an equal level as Mandarin. In addition, subjects that are related to Chinese culture may also be taught in Mandarin, such as Chinese literature, the history of China and Chinese–English translation studies.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Ministry of Education, Singapore: Press Releases". www.moe.gov.sg. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d "Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Education". Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan. Archived from the original on 19 July 2006. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  3. ^ Guan, Lee Hock; Suryadinata, Leo (1 January 2007). Language, Nation and Development in Southeast Asia. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ISBN 9789812304827.
  4. ^ "Courses – MOELC". www.moelc.moe.edu.sg. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  5. ^ hermes (8 November 2015). "Breaking down barriers with bilingualism". The Straits Times. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  6. ^ Dixon, L. Quentin (15 January 2005). "Bilingual Education Policy in Singapore: An Analysis of its Sociohistorical Roots and Current Academic Outcomes". International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 8 (1): 25–47. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/jBEB.v8.i1.pg25. ISSN 1367-0050. S2CID 42872929.
  7. ^ a b "特选中学 保住优秀华校". 联合早报网. 18 December 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Lee, Kuan Yew (2011). 李光耀 - 我一生的挑战 - 新加坡双语之路. Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings. pp. 97–122. ISBN 978-981-4342-04-9.
  9. ^ p.166. Tan, Jason. (2001). "Education in the Early 21st Century: Challenges and Dilemmas"' in Singapore in the New Millennium: Challenges Facing the City-state. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies: Singapore.
  10. ^ Pang, Cheng Lian (23 October 2015). 50 Years of the Chinese Community in Singapore. World Scientific. ISBN 9789814675413.
  11. ^ "SAP schools shouldn't be tweaked for sake of tokenism: Janil". 5 August 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2016.