This Blog has now moved to - all future posts will be made there!

4 May 2002

Singapore's report to 2002 Worlds Council

At the 2002 Worlds Council countries were invited to submit a report to the council to let other nations know about debating in their country.  It was not compulsory but a number of nations gave reports.

Singapore's report to 2002 Worlds Council

I'm the Captain of the NUS debate team but I also write this report on behalf of NTU.

We have 2 universities who have actively been represented in the WUDC: the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). We actually have 1 more university: the Singapore Management University (SMU) which to my knowledge has no debating team, nor any intention to develop one in the near future.

These 3 universities all have undergraduate courses and post graduate courses. Law is a direct degree course and is NOT a post graduate course.

The status of polytechnics
Singapore has 4 polytechnics which although officially labelled as a 'tertiary institutions' do not offer degrees. Instead they offer courses leading to a diploma. They have their own debating circuit which does not involve the universities. The only time when they debate with the universities is when NTU organises the annual inter-institute debating tournament invitationals which also includes junior colleges (ie high schools) to my knowledge the polytechnics have not entered the WUDC before although there is no reason why they shouldn't.

The status of Singapore as an ESL country

Well this is the hardest part of the report. Many people have expressed reservation over our status and so I hope to clarify the issue. I already did say something during the Council meeting in Glasgow but anyway, no harm repeating myself.

My stand is that we ARE an ESL country.

Let me first state the objections that people often have about Singapore and I will deal with each contention:

1. but you're taught in English
Ans: Yes, but while English is widely spoken and understood, it is certainly not a first language for the majority of the population in Singapore. In fact the speaking competence of the local population is still firmly grounded in local dialects. Singapore has 4 working languages: English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese (Mandarin) The official language is Malay. Our national Anthem is in malay. School children learn English in school and are taught in English but we speak out native language (and dialects) at home. The Chinese for example have the following dilects: cantonese, hokkein, teochew, hakka, hainese, kek etc. Many of our debaters join debates as a means of practising our English.

2. But NUS made it to the quarterfinals in Sydney worlds
Ans: That's true, but that team was an exception rather than the norm. Prima facie, I think that it is fair that if a Singapore team breaks in the open top 32 teams, it should be excluded from the ESL. This rule should also apply to other Asian countries having ESL status. However, consider the following problem: we have many students from overseas debating for NUS and NTU. most of them come from India, Pakistan, china, Mauritius etc. It would be ridiculous to hold them to the standard of a EFL team merely because they are from Singapore. on that point, EVEN IF the team was composed of Singaporeans, we are a multiracial country, and have our own different languages.

3. Every Singaporean I've met speaks English. In fact some of them even debate for UK universities. Therefore Singapore should be EFL rather and ESL.
Ans: that is an unfair broad-brush approach to the situation. These people who are able to do so will be held to EFL status, since they consented to such a standard by debating for a UK university (it would be silly for a Singaporean to claim ESL status while debating for Oxford for example); but that being the case should not negate the ESL status of other debaters who cannot hold themselves to that level of speaking competence. If Singapore is held not to be an ESL country, then countries like Malaysia, Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong etc should also be excluded form the ESL since they all use English as their medium of instruction. Clearly this is not appropriate.


1. Singapore is an ESL country

2. Pursuant to the rules now, whichever ESL teams break into the open round, should be disqualified from the ESL break rounds.

3. But there is no reason to disqualify Singapore's ESL status merely because English is one of the 4 mediums of instruction.

4. Because we do not have a homogenous population, and because English is not always a comfortable medium of communication, we are an ESL country.

5. We will abide by the code of honour. If for example 2 American students on a Fullbright scholarship in NUS decide to represent NUS in the next WUDC, they will NOT be registered as an ESL team.

6. A test of the teams' ESL status should be decided on the composition of the team rather than on the team's country of origin.

I hope that this report has been helpful. best regards all

Jonathan Yuen

Singapore Rep - Worlds Council.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.