Expressing similar views, Mathew Mathews and Melvin Tay wrote that while English language testing for aspiring PRs and new citizens may seem like a simple fix to ensure a baseline level of integration, it implies that those who need to improve in the language cannot integrate into Singapore society.
In the opinion piece published by Zaobao, the retired university professor noted that Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-religious society. While later generations of Singaporeans have gone through schools with English as the medium of instruction, there remain members of the Pioneer and Merdeka Generations whose commands of English may need to meet Pritam’s standard.
Pritam’s suggestion to make English proficiency a test of citizenship sends the message that the Pioneer and Merdeka generations – who have sacrificed much in nation-building and given up their ideals in their youth – are not good enough to be citizens or even permanent residents. The suggestion has delivered a nasty slap to these older Singaporeans.
As a netizen commented, “it is almost like someone decides to snob your parents ….”
Indeed, Pritam’s suggestion speaks of snobbery, elitism and discrimination.
If the reason for testing for English proficiency is to ensure that a potential citizen or PR is not merely using Singapore as a stepping stone to a better place elsewhere, then the argument is flawed. One must bear in mind that those who are proficient are more mobile and therefore more likely to hop from one place to another.
In an age where the world is fighting for talent, it is hardly helpful to make English a requirement. The English language requirement has a tinge of favouritism towards migrants from countries with solid English backgrounds, such as India and the Philippines. Great talents are always mobile and will move to where they are welcome, where the requirements for their grasp of English are less stringent.