Speeches

Opening Remarks by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade & Industry and Ministry of Education, at The Inauguration of The 9th Tamil Internet Conference in Coimbatore on 24 June 2010, 12 noon.

The Honorable Communications & Information Technology Minister, Mr A Raja,

The Honorable Information Technology Minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr. Poongothai

Chairman of the Tamil Internet Conference Committee, Prof Anandakrishnan

Excellencies,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

I am delighted to be here today to inaugurate the opening of the 9th Tamil Internet Conference in Tamil Nadu.

It is appropriate that the Tamil Internet Conference is held here together with the first World Classical Tamil Conference. The World Classical Tamil Conference is an opportunity for us to celebrate the rich heritage of Tamil. However, we also have to ensure that it remains relevant to future generations in the Tamil diaspora, by keeping the language abreast of changes in today’s globalised world. This will help to keep Tamil a living language. Minister A Raja mentioned that Tamil is one of the 5 languages with most number of websites today. We should continue our efforts to develop more web resources. Hence, the Internet and Information technology play an important role in this regard.

Unique Role of Tamil Language (TL) in Singapore

In Singapore, we seek to cultivate a life-long interest in the Tamil Language among our young Tamil Singaporeans. We have a distinctive bilingual environment where Tamil Language is offered as one of four official languages in Singapore’s education system. Although Singapore’s Tamil-speaking community is small, there are still sizeable pockets of spoken Tamil in both social and public settings. In the public media, we have television, radio channels and newspapers in Tamil (Vasantham, Oli, Tamil Murasa).

Strong community support also helps this effort. For example, efforts by the Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee and other community organizations provide a wide range of literary and cultural platforms for students to learn and use the language beyond the classroom.

With 60% of students in Singapore coming from English-speaking homes and the dominance of English as the most commonly used language on the internet, the key challenge today for us is to cultivate a life-long interest in the Tamil language, and encourage our students to use it for communication in everyday life.

Usage of ICT in Teaching and Learning of Tamil

Leveraging on our role as a centre for ICT, Singapore has been happy to have contributed towards the use of ICT in Tamil. Indeed, the first Tamil Internet Conference was held in Singapore in 1997. Similarly, the International Forum for Information Technology in Tamil, or INFITT, was formed in Singapore in 2000. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Tamil Nadu and INFITT for making this Conference possible.

Many would agree that it is not possible to talk about the future of education without ICT. With the purposeful use of ICT as an enabling tool, we allow our students to learn better, as well as enable them to collaborate, to create, and to communicate, all of which are essential attributes for the future.

Teachers today are also becoming more internet and ICT savvy. By tapping on the internet, teachers have been able to make learning more authentic by providing rich resources to improve listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in an interactive online environment.

Let me share with you some examples of how Singapore has used ICT to enhance the teaching and learning of the Tamil Language:

  • The Singapore Ministry of Education put in place the standardized Tamil text input software, Murasu Anjal, across schools in 2009. This input software has helped our students in the search for information in the internet using Tamil, and it has created many useful opportunities for self-directed and collaborative learning.

  • Teachers today also use a wide range of innovative methodologies to integrate the use of ICT in their teaching of TL. E.g. Students are now able to use Web 2.0/3.0 tools such as blogs, discussion forums, Twitter, Facebook, etc, to bring about greater engagement in learning and teaching.

  • Internet platforms also facilitate the aggregation of resources and collaborative learning tools among teachers and students. Our web-based online portal Edumall2.0 has allowed both teachers and students alike to access digital content and interact with one and other using a variety of Internet services through this portal.

Using some of these ICT tools, our schools and teachers have been able to develop innovative teaching methods to engage students and to imbue in them a lifelong love for Tamil. Today, our students good at using internet and they are IT-savvy. Therefore, it becomes necessary to use IT to teach them.

Singapore is happy to share our practices in the teaching of the language with Tamil-speaking communities, especially those which need to operate in a bilingual or multilingual environment. On this note, I’m glad to hear that some 100 participants from Singapore have travelled here to Coimbatore to participate in the conferences, and about half of them will be presenting their papers on the Tamil language. While our teachers are sharing their best practices with the delegates here, they too wish to learn from our Tamilnadu teachers. The exchange of ideas would build a strong foundation in teaching and learning of Tamil language.

Conclusion

Looking ahead, technology will continue to evolve, in a more inter-connected world. Web 2.0, 3.0 — what next? Our young Tamil speakers will grow up in a world where the latest info-comm technology will be part and parcel of their everyday lives. They will have new and, faster ways of getting information. We will need to constantly innovate and find more effective ways to teach and promote the learning of TL. It is timely that many of us are here today to share our thoughts on how we can tap on technology to make the language come alive for all Tamil users. I wish one and all a very successful and fruitful 9th Tamil Internet Conference.