Friday, August 7, 2009

Make English and modified NS a must

Yah, like the government will tell the PRs to serve part-time NS. After all, these 'talents' are here to enjoy our work environment at the expense of 'less talented' Singaporeans and not to defend the country. Money, money, money.

Make English and modified NS a must

SUNDAY'S reports, 'Mah urges new citizens to adapt to local ways' and 'Be mindful of racial, religious fault lines', bring to mind two measures that may encourage meaningful integration of naturalised citizens with 'true-blue Singaporeans'.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, in calling on new citizens to make an effort to become 'true-blue Singaporeans', said he noticed that some new citizens appear to make no conscious effort to integrate or learn spoken English.

This prompts the question: Why are we giving citizenship to people who cannot communicate in Singapore's lingua franca?

Most naturalised citizens come from China. While they can converse in one official language, they are not equipped to have any meaningful interaction with minority Singaporeans and Chinese Singaporeans who do not speak Mandarin.

Not surprisingly, Mr Mah is concerned about new citizens forming cliques in their own communities.

To reduce the likelihood of ethnic enclaves becoming a problem, the Government should require future citizenship applicants to pass an English language test.

Pointing out the threat of racial and religious disharmony to Singapore's stability, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said the Government's key approach to managing race and religion matters is to build common spaces in schools, communities, workplaces and national service.

However, national service is one area in which adult new citizens currently do not participate, and the Government should introduce a modified, shortened form for adult new citizens under the age of 40.

While it is true that they did not enjoy the benefits of citizenship during their childhood, they will enjoy these benefits for the rest of their lives.

They could learn the basics of army combat, policing or civil defence over a predetermined number of weekends, a practical compromise given work commitments.

Besides helping them integrate better with their new compatriots, the modified national service stint will also empower them to play an active role in Singapore's national defence or internal security.

After all, the enemy's bullet or bomb does not distinguish between naturalised and native-born Singaporeans.

Michael Ang

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