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You May Not Have Heard Of These Secondary School Programmes, But They Develop Key Future Skills

Do you know much about the third language programme in local secondary schools? Or about the Language Elective Programme, the Bicultural Studies Programme, and the Regional Studies Programme? 

These are all school-based programmes designed to develop our kids into well-informed global citizens — if your child is eligible for one of these programmes, he or she should consider going for it. And if you and your child are still mulling over suitable secondary schools, you may want to choose a school that offers these opportunities.

Read on to find out more!

Third Languages

Some background for those who’re unaware about Third Language options in secondary schools and junior colleges: the Ministry of Education Language Centre, or MOELC, was set up in 1978 to offer French and Japanese as a Third Language for local students. Since then, the choices for Third Language have been expanded to include German, Malay, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, and most recently, Spanish.

Under the MOE system, these language classes are offered to eligible post-primary students at no charge. For now, those applying to study a Foreign Language as a Third Language must satisfy all three criteria:

  1. Students must be ranked in the top 10% of their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) cohort.
  2. They must be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident, or the child of a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident.
  3. They must have offered a Mother Tongue Language at the PSLE.

Whichever language your child chooses, the benefits are similar: learning a new language facilitates better interaction with native speakers, and puts one in a favourable position to secure education and job opportunities in countries where the language is commonly used.

However, it is never easy to learn a new language — no official statistics are available online, but anecdotally, you may have heard about students dropping out of the Third Language programme. Some parents and students may feel it’s not worth the hassle, and that’s understandable. But it’s good to know that those who’ve persisted have touted its merits.

If you should decide to let your child give it a shot, here’s an insightful comment by one of our members:

“Language learning is entirely about one’s engagement with the culture. It’s not just a matter of memorizing words or having another line in the O-Levels cert. With this in mind, those of you who are going to learn a third language — get immersed in the culture if you haven’t already. Also, if there is no opportunity to practise the language, you will surely not be able to learn it well.”

Parents and students can visit our Third Language discussion thread to seek advice and support.

Language Elective Programmes

In 2020, three language elective programmes were introduced in selected secondary schools:

The programmes aim to nurture upper secondary students to attain a high proficiency in the selected language, and enhance their understanding of related literature and culture. To be eligible, secondary students must have scored:

  • Grade B3 in Higher Chinese/Malay/Tamil; or
  • Grade A2 in Chinese/Malay/Tamil

Entry to the programme is by invitation (via the school), and students can look forward to two signature activities organised by the MOE:

  • A local camp with a focus on Mother Tongue Language-related interests.
  • A one to two-week overseas immersion programme. 

Students will also participate in activities such as creative writing workshops and language symposiums. However, do note that activities are subject to change while Covid-19 safe distancing restrictions are in place.

The language elective programmes will run for two years, and students will be awarded a certificate of recognition after completion. Students who are Singapore Citizens can apply for a scholarship to cover programme-related expenses. 

There are also language elective programmes at junior college level, and students are encouraged to continue in the programme by reapplying — it is not mandatory. 

For the most accurate information about these programmes, please refer to the MOE website

Bicultural Studies Programme (BSP)

This programme enables students to develop a “bicultural orientation.” What this means is that students learn about China’s history, culture, and contemporary developments, while gaining an understanding about the complex relationship between the East and the West.

The secondary schools that are offering the programme in 2020 are:

All students in the listed schools who qualify for Higher Chinese are eligible for the programme. For an updated list of schools that will continue to offer the programme, please refer to the latest secondary school information booklet on the MOE website.

Students who do well in this programme can read up about the Bicultural Studies Programme Scholarship offered at the pre-university level.

Regional Studies Programme (RSP)

This programme allows students to study Southeast Asian culture and contemporary society, along with Malay or Bahasa Indonesia as a third language. It is open to non-Malay students with an affinity for languages and a strong academic foundation.

You can read more about how the Regional Studies Programme is carried out at Raffles’ Girls School (Secondary). Other schools offering the programme in 2020 include:

For an updated list of schools that will continue to offer the programme, please refer to the latest secondary school information booklet on the MOE website.

Students who do well in this programme can read up about the Regional Studies Programme Scholarship offered at the pre-university level.


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