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FDWs Tested on Safety Instructions too

  • TODAY (10 April 2009) : FDWs tested on safety instructions too
  • TODAY (08 April 2009) : English Test a Major Barrier


FDWs tested on safety instructions too 
- TODAY, 10 April 2009

Please refer to "English test a major barrier" (TODAY, 8 April 09) by Ms Padmini Kesavapany.

2.   The entry test was introduced as part of a package of measures by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to raise the quality of first-time foreign domestic workers (FDW) working in Singapore.

3.   Contrary to what Ms Padmini had understood, about 95% of first-time FDWs consistently pass the entry test since it was introduced in 2005. The test does not assess proficiency in English but gauges the ability of the FDW to understand simple safety instructions, handle common everyday situations and adapt to life in Singapore. The test is conducted in English as labels on household items and public signs are generally in English.

4.   Sample questions continue to be available on MOM's website. They provide simple illustrations to aid understanding of typical questions asked in the test. FDWs are given three attempts within three working days after their arrival in Singapore to pass the test. Most FDWs who have had eight years of basic education would be able to pass the test.


English Test A Major Barrier
- TODAY, 08 April 2009

Getting a maid to one's requirement is akin to striking a lottery.

Even after we have picked one, we can never be sure whether she would be able to pass the language test. Agents are unwilling to take in first timers for fear of having to send them back should they fail to get through the test. There are many out there who want to work as maids and who would have had eight years of formal education in a system where English is neither the official language nor the medium of instruction in schools in their country.

If employment is decided solely on the basis of passing the test, which is set only in English, it not only narrows the maids' chances, but also shrinks the pool for employers. My previous maid, despite not knowing English, but with rigorous drilling of the questions by her local agent, passed the test. When I tried to revive her memory to the questions, she said she could not remember anything.

Here, again, we have succeeded in creating "parrots" and the well-intentioned purpose of such an exercise has become futile. Mine is not an isolated case.

Wouldn't it be far more effective if the test is set in a language familiar to the maid or in any of the four official languages of Singapore? The maid is then not only given the choice of the language of examination but is also better equipped to answer the questions set. I am also told that the test has been made more difficult as illustrations are no longer provided, the number of attempts reduced to one, with the success rate dropping alarmingly. If these girls are expected to be equally proficient in English and their mother tongue, why then would they want to work as maids?

At the end of the day, it is the healthy and positive relationship between the employer and maid that matters. Passing the test should take second place.