The opposition leader of Singapore, Pritam Singh, said in late February that he supported adding an English test to the requirements for applications for citizenship or permanent residency in Singapore. A recent poll of five hundred Singapore-born citizens found strong popular support for that position.
Proportionately, most of those opposing an English-language requirement were of Chinese descent. But even among that group, supporters of the requirement outnumbered those opposed by roughly 3:1.
Only 7 percent of all respondents, however, said applicants should be able to speak, read, or write fluently in English.
Based on data from the Singapore Census 2020, 72.3 per cent of Singapore residents born outside Singapore are literate in English.
Focusing on the top three countries of origin (India, Malaysia and China), the English literacy level among those from China was the lowest at 61.8 per cent, Asst Prof [Shannon] Ang [of Nanyang Technological University] said.
“Because a large proportion (62.3 per cent) of the overall resident population is Chinese-literate, Chinese immigrants may feel little need to learn another language. But this means that members from the minority races may not be able to communicate with them,” he added.
- CNA poll finds majority welcome English test to be part of Singapore citizenship application process, CNA (Channel News Asia, Singapore), April 3, 2023.
- ‘Dialects’ wasting ‘important neurons’ needed for Mandarin, English: Lee Kuan Yew, Pinyin News, March 29, 2009.