An Investigation into Singaporean Teachers' Marking of Eight Grammatical Items

Choy Kum Yoke Joyous

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2003


Prescriptive grammar - that is, "a grammar of the language designed to guide use" is what the teachers of Singapore are most familiar with (Reagan, 1984: 8). However, ever since the Singapore-Cambridge Grammar Course (SCGC) in 1999, all English teachers, both primary and secondary, are officially introduced to descriptive grammars - grammars which describe the usage of native speakers of a language (Fromkin & Rodman, 1993: 13-14). Teachers learnt that certain grammatical items could become acceptable due to common usage.

This Academic Exercise reviews the concerns on prescriptive and descriptive grammars, the controversies on the prescription of Singapore teachers and the sources of grammatical information. This study investigates if the Heads of Department (HODs) in Singapore schools have become receptive to eight grammatical items in their marking, specifically those which Singaporeans believe to be in violation of grammatical rules, but are in actual fact used by Britons and also the sources in which these HODs determine their beliefs about rules of Standard English, by using the Cobuild Direct Corpus and questionnaires.

The results of the study revealed that for these eight grammatical items, which include constructions with because, and, but and also at the beginning of sentences, one another used for two entities, between used for more than two entities, none with a plural verb and contracted forms used in writing, the marking of these HODs remains conventional and the rate of receptivity towards majority of the grammatical items is very low. The reasons may be due to their conservative attitudes and their ignorance of the norms outside of their immediate reach. It may also be attributed to the sources of grammatical information that teachers tap.