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English is still more important

I refer to the report, “‘Mother tongue proficiency affected’ as more students speak English at home” (Sept 14), and the Government’s encouragement of the use of mother tongue by more families.

Joanne Peng

I refer to the report, “‘Mother tongue proficiency affected’ as more students speak English at home” (Sept 14), and the Government’s encouragement of the use of mother tongue by more families.

My parents spoke mainly Mandarin and dialects at home. In school, I loved Chinese but found English to be a difficult subject to pass; I got a C6 for O-Level English. I then went on to complete my banking diploma and business degree (distinction) with RMIT University.

I thought that no employer would bother about my C6 result. I was wrong.

At a job interview for an administrative position with a reputable private hospital, everything was going fine until the hiring manager saw my O-Level certificate and said that I was unsuitable for the position because I had a poor command of English.

I was taken aback. That I completed my diploma and degree courses, which were conducted in English, meant I had improved from a C6 level. But she insisted otherwise.

Today, I am a senior financial analyst in a multinational corporation who frequently reports financial results to top management. The incident motivated me to work hard and prove that C6 is not the end.

Now, my eldest child is in Primary 1. We speak Mandarin at home because we want our children to communicate with their grandparents. While most of my friends have chosen to speak English to their children, we thought we had to strike a balance with the use of English in school.

However, during the parent-teacher meeting at the end of my daughter’s first term, I was told that her English was below average. The teacher encouraged us to speak English to her.

I guess there were generally more fluent English speakers in her class, and I blamed myself for making the wrong choice. Following the teacher’s feedback, I enrolled my daughter on weekend lessons to improve her English.

I am sorry to deprive her of her weekend fun, but a strong command of English is a necessity in school. It is still the most important language. Academic achievement and what is printed on school certificates still determine how others look at a person.

Parents are kiasu due to the stress from the education system. My children are not brilliantly smart, so I must work harder for them to at least be average students with average results. I will put in more time and effort to ensure that my daughter satisfies the prevailing reality.

ABOUT THE WRITER:

The writer was born in the 1980s. She got an A1 for O-level Chinese. She has three children.

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