International Journal of Applied Linguistics

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Inclusion, exclusion, and racial identity in Singapore's language education system

The multiethnic population of Singapore speaks a wide variety of languages, only four of which hold official status. We consider sociolinguistic issues that arise in connection with Singapore's Mother Tongue (MT) education policy, in which children are assigned a course of language study based on their racial heritage. A survey of Singaporeans from various backgrounds indicates that those of mixed and/or minority heritage do not identify strongly with their assigned MT. Respondents of Chinese heritage differ considerably in their attitudes by ethnolinguistic background; overall, they show more ambivalence towards their assigned MT than respondents of Malay and Indian heritage. Our findings reflect the legacies of Singapore's government language campaigns, as well as a growing enthusiasm among Singaporeans for languages that index distinctive regional ethnic identities.

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