chapter  3
Language Teaching Methods in Singapore Primary Schools: An Historical Overview
ByPHYLLIS GHIM-LIAN CHEW
Pages 21

In Singapore, a study of the history of primary school English education is closely aligned with the development of the history of the teaching of English as a second language (TESL), taking place in the world at large. This has happened because of two reasons. First, Singapore emergence as a republic coincided with the phenomenal interest in the teaching of English as a second language. The emergence of the United States as a superpower after the Second World War saw a rise in the demand for the learning of English by non-native speakers. Its recognition of the importance of learning foreign languages in the Cold War era led indirectly to an interest in ESL education in other parts of the globe. Hence, the 1950s saw many educators and linguists researching into language learning and language teaching, and advocating/ producing a wide variety of ESL methods. For example, the fi rst MA TESL degree program was initiated in the United States in Hawaii in 1964 and the TESOL Quarterly commenced publication in 1966. In the 1950s, Singapore was working toward independence and was keen to import new ESL ideas from the West as soon as they become popular. Its desire to import what it perceived to be “state-of-theart” language methodology draws largely from its own perception of political and economic vulnerability and therefore its need to align itself closely with external changes taking place in the wider world. Without natural resources, its survival is entirely dependent on human resources, and, as a result, the education of its people has become its top priority, such as is the case in Japan (Yoshida, 2012). Education is viewed as key to survival, and the Singapore education system, especially that of the primary school is the main vehicle for social engineering.