English as a Medium of Instruction in Singapore Higher Education

Kingsley Bolton, Werner Botha

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The opening sections of this chapter trace the development of English-medium instruction (EMI) in higher education from the late 1940s and the foundation of the University of Malaya, through to the post-colonial era following independence in 1965 and Singapore’s current era of a globally-competitive, knowledge-based economy. One important argument in this context is that the post-independence policy of promoting English within education had strong roots in the colonial language policies of the 1950s. Today, Singapore has six tertiary institutions, all of which maintain a uniform policy of using English as the sole medium of instruction. The later sections of the chapter focus on the contemporary context of higher education, where scientific, technological, and vocational education has been promoted to serve the needs of a knowledge-based economy that has been developed to be highly competitive on the world stage. Despite the official policy on EMI throughout education in Singapore, from a sociolinguistic perspective it is also important to consider the wider multilingual ecology of the Singapore society, and the often complex multilingual worlds of university students, which are characterised by code-switching from more formal registers of English in the classroom to the use of Colloquial Singapore English, Malay, Mandarin and Indian languages in the corridors and cafeterias of universities throughout Singapore.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnglish Medium Instruction in Higher Education in Asia-Pacific
EditorsBen Fenton-Smith, Pamela Humphreys, Ian Walkinshaw
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-51976-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-51974-6
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameMultilingual Education
ISSN (Print)2213-3208
ISSN (Electronic)2213-3216


  • English-medium instruction
  • Higher education
  • International education
  • Language policy
  • Multilingualism
  • Singapore


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