Should My Child Take a Third Language in Secondary School?

Submitted by KiasuEditor

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If Singapore students are eligible to take a “third language” in secondary school, should they seize the opportunity?

Many local parents prefer their children to focus on core subjects and extracurriculars, rather than taking on a third language, in addition to English and the Mother Tongue Language. This makes sense if a child lacks interest in languages, but if they show a genuine fascination with a particular culture, and are already learning foreign phrases through the media, it would be ideal to nurture that passion.

Below, we’ll look at the eligibility requirements to take a third language in Singapore secondary schools, as well as the factors that your child should consider before making that commitment.

Who Can Take a Third Language in Local Schools?

To take French, German, Spanish, or Japanese as a third language in secondary school, your child needs to:

  • Obtain a PSLE Score of 8 or better
  • Have studied Chinese or Higher Chinese at the PSLE level (this only applies for taking Japanese)
  • Be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident, or have a parent who is a citizen or permanent resident

Other third language options are Arabic and Bahasa Indonesia, where the eligibility criteria is more lenient — children who achieve a PSLE score of 24 or better can opt for these as a third language. 

Additionally, those not studying Chinese or Malay as their Mother Tongue Language can choose to pursue them as a third language if they’ve secured a PSLE score of 24 or above. 

Do also note that third language classes will not be held in your child’s school. Instead, classes are conducted after regular school hours, and your child will have to travel to the Ministry of Education Language Centres, which are currently located at Bishan and Newton. 

If your child should embark on this learning path, you should also be aware that a third language is a “full curriculum subject,” where students will take the GCE O-Level Examination at the end of four years. Interested students can continue to take the language for the A-Level exams.

Is a Third Language the Right Choice for Your Child?

Beyond practical concerns such as commuting and scheduling, what factors should be weighed before your child enrols in a third language course in secondary school? 

Here’s a list of key questions for you and your child to discuss:

“Why do you want to learn a third language?”

Discovering a third language can be an exciting journey. If your child’s interest stems from a heartfelt desire to embrace new cultures, expand their horizons, or pave the way for interesting career prospects, these are all good reasons to proceed. But if you sense that your child simply wants to fit in or jump on a bandwagon, it might be worthwhile to pause and discuss the commitment and motivation required. Remember: genuine enthusiasm and purpose will lead to a more fulfilling and enduring learning experience for your child.

“Will taking a third language help you to thrive?”

Every teen’s journey is unique. While some might find joy in mastering multiple languages and weaving them into their identity, others may feel that it’s an added pressure. The key is ensuring that your teen not only has a keen interest, but also the resilience to persevere. If they lack either of these qualities, it might be a signal to reconsider and focus on areas where their passion and strengths truly lie.

“How will you manage your time?”

While learning a new language opens doors to enhanced cognitive skills, cultural immersion, and future opportunities, it also demands dedication and mental commitment. Ask your teen: Can you allocate sufficient time for this endeavour without being overwhelmed? 

It’s crucial that they don’t sacrifice their well-being or neglect other academic and extracurricular commitments — think about what their schedule might look like next year, so that you can make an informed decision.

“Would you prefer a more relaxed way of picking up a new language?”

Unlike in the past, our children now have a wealth of resources for language learning. From apps like Duolingo to online courses, podcasts, and YouTube tutorials, your teen can easily find a method that aligns with their learning style and schedule. This flexibility might offer a less stressful and more enjoyable approach, allowing them to immerse in a new language at their own pace.

“Are you open to adapting and facing potential challenges?”

Language learning isn’t just about memorising vocabulary and grammar rules. It often requires adapting to different cultural nuances, accents, and sometimes even altering one’s thought process to understand certain concepts. 

Is your teen ready to step out of their comfort zone, embrace mistakes, and continuously adapt in their learning journey? Having a growth mindset and seeing challenges as opportunities can greatly enhance their language learning experience and overall personal development.

If you believe your child will fare well at the PSLE and be presented with third language options, now’s the opportune time to explore this. Immerse them in cultural experiences, from attending foreign film viewings to experiencing “live” international performances. Introducing them to language apps or community classes might also kindle their enthusiasm. Such exposure will not only ignite their curiosity, but also help pinpoint the language that truly aligns with their interests. 

To chat with other parents about choosing a third language in secondary school, join the discussion on the KiasuParents forum!

Wed 11/10/2023