Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education at the Tamil Language Co-ordinators' Meeting-cum-Sharing Session on Thursday, 11 February 2010, 2.50pm at the MOE Edutorium

Distinguished Guests,

Heads of Department and Teachers,

Good afternoon.

It gives me great pleasure to join you at this Annual Tamil Language Co-ordinators’ Meeting cum sharing session. I am very pleased to see so many Tamil teachers coming together to engage in professional discussion and sharing of best practices. I am especially glad to see the collegiality among the Tamil teachers and commend the peer-to-peer professional development efforts. In particular, I applaud the two teacher-presenters for sharing your innovative pedagogies as well as teaching ideas and resources.

Over the years, the language environment within Singapore households has continued to change. In 1982, 3 in 10 Primary 1 Indian students came from homes that used English. The figure is now 6 in 10. The proportion of Indian students from English-speaking homes has doubled. These students have limited exposure to Tamil before they enter school and start learning the language. These students would also have limited opportunities to use Tamil in their homes. Therefore, our teaching approach will have to be modified, or even changed fundamentally, to ensure that such students learn the language in a manner, and at a pace, that meets their need, with constant motivation and encouragement as they progress. Emphasis should be placed on developing students’ oral vocabulary. Teachers should, as many of you already do, use interesting resources and activities to engage students in listening, speaking and reading. Teachers should also give suggestions to parents and community organisations on ways for students to use the language at home and in the community.

I am pleased to note that schools have been giving greater importance to oracy skills. In Greenwood Primary School, the Tamil language teachers worked with their students to set up make-believe food and goods stalls to simulate a marketplace scenario. The students role-played as hawkers or customers and conducted their transactions in Tamil. Chong Boon Secondary School infused dramas such as Kannagi and Porkai Pandian into their Tamil language lessons as a form of instruction as well as a mode of alternative assessment. Another commendable example is by Crescent Girls’ School which has used ICTin the teaching of Tamil language. Students role-played as news-readers and journalists, and used newsmaker software to create podcasts and vodcasts of their news reading and recordings of commentaries and narrations. These were then loaded online for teachers and peers to view and comment. I applaud the many innovative efforts taken by Tamil language teachers to provide enjoyable and engaging lessons which enhance students’ motivation to learn and enable them to improve their proficiency in the language.

It is imperative that we continue to explore such authentic and fun ways to teach Tamil. Tamil language teachers should continue to increase their knowledge base of best practices, broaden their repertoire of teaching strategies and incorporate new technologies in their lessons. Teachers need to stay abreast of developments as they strive to meet the needs of our 21st century learners. Teachers must set aside time for professional development and sharing, and contribute to the collegiate environment and learning within the community of Tamil Language educators.

Today’s event offers an excellent opportunity for teachers to learn from one another, explore new ideas, and discover new approaches to Tamil language teaching. I am glad that the master teacher and 49 senior teachers will also be sharing their deep expertise. I am confident that such peer coaching and sharing will benefit all teachers.

UPTLC—Centre for Professional Development of Tamil Language Teachers

Since 2001, Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre (UPTLC) has played two key roles: one, as a national resource centre; and the second, as a Tamil language teaching centre for students. Given the importance of professional development, going forward, UPTLC will also take on the role of a national professional development centre for Tamil language teachers. UPTLC will provide training programmes in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and the use of ICTas well as mentorship programmes for new teachers and Senior teachers.

UPTLC will also provide guidance and consultancy for classroom action research and development of teaching and learning resources. Notably, UPTLC will conduct a total of over 40 workshops per year, which is 3 times more than what it is currently offering. With the enhancements to the Teaching Track and structured training provided by UPTLC, there will be more professional development opportunities for Tamil language teachers and for grooming good Tamil language teachers to be Senior Teachers and Master Teachers.

I am confident of the commitment and desire of all Tamil language teachers to deliver high quality and effective lessons. I am sure that you will take full advantage of the various training, mentoring and consultancy opportunities available at UPTLC. I urge the community of Tamil language teachers to work collaboratively, to assist each other in your professional growth and to apply new pedagogies and ideas in your Tamil language lessons.

In conclusion, I wish one and all a fruitful session this afternoon.