Speech by Guest-Of-Honour, Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the Malay Language Seminar 2015, on Thursday, 4 June 2015 at 10.00am at the Malay Language Centre Of Singapore

Published Date: 04 June 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Hawazi Daipi
Senior Parliamentary Secretary

Mrs Chua-Lim Yen Ching
Deputy Director-General of Education (Professional Development), and
Executive Director, Academy of Singapore Teachers

Mr Mohamed Noh Daipi
Director, Malay Language Centre of Singapore

Professor Dr Zaharani Ahmad
Deputy Director-General
Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Malaysia1

Distinguished guests, teachers and ladies and gentlemen

A very good morning.


1.Saya amat gembira dapat bersama-sama anda pada pagi ini di Seminar Bahasa Melayu dua ribu lima belas (2015) anjuran Pusat Bahasa Melayu Singapura (MLCS)2.

2.Saya juga gembira mendapat tahu empat ratus (400) guru Bahasa Melayu menghadiri seminar hari ini. Saya bangga anda suka belajar bersama-sama untuk mempertingkatkan lagi kemahiran anda di seminar ini walaupun dalam musim cuti sekolah. Syabas kepada anda semua.3

3.Izinkan saya meneruskan ucapan dalam bahasa Inggeris.4

Ladies and gentlemen

4.I understand there are some Pioneer Generation teachers with us today. Let me start by thanking them for their many years of service! It is an honour to be among them, especially Cikgu Suratman Markasan, a writer and winner of the prestigious Cultural Medallion Award.

5.I would also like to welcome Professor Zaharani Ahmad to Singapore and thank him for sharing his research in Malay linguistics this morning. Professor Zaharani’s presence reflects the warm and close ties between the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Malaysia and our MOE.

Language in culture and heritage

6.Language is the conduit for the flow of ideas across time and space. Traditions are preserved across generations through conversations in our Mother Tongue Languages. This is why we have to persist in our journey of bilingualism.

7.Our different races, including the Malay community, are rich in heritage and cultural treasures. A strong grasp of language is the foundation that empowers people to explore their cultural assets. Language can touch both the heart and the mind. In the words of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, “Language transmits values. These values will provide cultural ballast to our people as we adjust to a fast-changing world.”

Role of educators

Shaping Values and National Identity through the Learning of Language

7.It is in this context that I gladly accepted MLCS’ invitation to speak to all of you today, in this milestone year of Singapore’s history. Teachers play a larger-than-life role in nurturing our children to be good citizens and leaders of tomorrow. Mother Tongue Language teachers have an even heavier responsibility, because of the power of language in shaping values, which are the source of our national identity.

8.It is a heavy responsibility. But as a small country, with no natural resources and many challenges, taking on heavy responsibilities through hard work is not new to us! Singapore was built on the hard work, and values, of Singaporeans. Teachers are indeed “nation builders” in this sense, because they are good role models for hard work, and impart values to their students. And as we shift our mindsets beyond learning for work, to learning for life, this role will only get bigger.

9.Madam Ruzana Awalludin is one of such role model. As a Malay Language teacher in charge of Fuchun Secondary School’s Sepak Takraw team, she always encourages her students to practice good sportsmanship, by standing strong to their principles and values. Because of her guidance, care and concern, her students often address her as ‘mother’! I’m sure all of you know many other such inspiring stories. No matter in the classroom setting or in a CCA, I believe all of you have the opportunity to influence your students to be the best that they can be.

10.Allow me to share with you a gurindam5 I recently learnt, by the late Pak Tenas Effendy6

yang disebut tunjuk ajar
mencelikkan mata
menyaringkan telinga
membersihkan hati
menyempurnakan budi
membaikkan pekerti

It means that education opens our eyes to new perspectives, clears our ears so we can better discern what we hear, purifies our heart, encourages us to accomplish good deeds and refines our character.

11.This gurindam is in line with the theme of today’s seminar - “Promoting graciousness, refining language”. Language and graciousness cannot be separated. As you enrich the language skills of your students, they will become more gracious to everyone around them, and give back what they have received. This is captured by the vision of Malay Language learning in our schools, Arif Budiman, or a learned person who contributes to society.

Supporting teachers in achieving high professional standards

12.To ensure that our children continue to receive high standards of language learning, we will continue to support your professional development and upgrading. You will continue to have many opportunities for in-service training conducted by the Academy of Singapore Teachers, MLCS and the Malay Language Unit.

13.The Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee, chaired by SPS Hawazi, supports initiatives carried out by these outfits and Malay community organisations.

14.One such initiative is today’s seminar. Every year, about 130 of you undertake group research on classroom practices, pedagogies and assessment, and present your papers at the break-out sessions. Subsequently, some will have the opportunity to present their papers at teaching and learning conferences in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. About 50 teachers have done this since 2011, and I am sure there will be many more to come.

15.MLCS has also sent teachers abroad to upgrade their skills and network with peers in the region through immersion programmes. For example, 14 of our secondary school Malay Language teachers are currently in Brunei to attend a workshop on creative writing.

Supporting students in learning the Malay Language

16.We are committed to providing opportunities and support for students to master the Malay Language.

Pintar Kata Application (“Smart in Vocabulary” App)

17.One way is by harnessing technology in learning. Last year, MLCS launched the app, Pintar Peribahasa (“Smart in Proverbs”), which received good feedback. I am happy to announce that, this year, we will launch the app Pintar Kata (“Smart in Vocabulary”), which enhances the learning of Malay vocabulary. Through the app’s gameplay, students can form words using different word classes and understand the meaning and usage of the words they discover.

Partnership with Parents

18.Besides our collective efforts, parents, too, play an important role. A good example is the reading programme at Rivervale Primary School. The programme helps students with reading difficulties in Malay. Lessons are run every Wednesday afternoon by five parent volunteers, including a grandmother whose granddaughter is studying in the school. You can also encourage parents of your students to join your schools’ PSGs. They can help out in such reading programmes or other activities that help to deepen their children’s knowledge and passion for the Malay Language and culture. Parents can also develop a culture of learning at home by guiding their children through reading books together, or even exploring the interactive apps which MLCS has developed.

Pantun SG50

19.I am heartened to know that since its inception, MLCS has made efforts to develop not just the pedagogical content knowledge of our teachers, but also to deepen teachers’ and students’ appreciation of Malay culture. For instance, MLCS helped to organise an interaction session with Madam Som Said, a Pioneer Generation Cultural Medallion Award winner, which has helped our teachers better understand Malay traditional dance. In April, MLCS organised the Pantun SG50 Reading and Writing Competition. 150 students took part and I am glad to see five of the winners present their pantun this morning. MLCS has published the pantun written by the 30 winners in a book called ‘Pantun Anak Singapura - Generasi Abad ke-21. I am sure this will be something that they will cherish forever and hope that they will share it with others.


20.Let me conclude. The preservation of our Asian heritage, culture, values and sense of identity among our students is best delivered through our Mother Tongue Languages. As our children grow to be more proficient in their Mother Tongue Languages, they will also strengthen their values - values that shape their unique sense of identity.

21.This is captured well in the pantun:

Yang kurik itu kundi,
Yang merah itu saga;
Yang baik itu budi,
Yang indah itu Bahasa.

22.In a small multi-racial and multi-religious society, we can never emphasise enough the importance of values and sense of identity. It is our shared hope that our future generations will live together in harmony, in a place they call home, as they chart their future.

23.I would like to congratulate MLCS for organising a successful seminar and I wish all of you a meaningful discussion today.

24.Thank you.

  1. The Institute for Language and Literature, the government body coordinating the use of Malay Language in Malaysia.
  2. I am very pleased to be with you this morning at the Malay Language Seminar 2015 organised by the Malay Language Centre of Singapore.
  3. I am also happy to know there are 400 Malay Language teachers attending this seminar today. I am proud that you like to learn and upgrade your skills together through this seminar even during the school holiday season. Well done to all of you.
  4. Allow me to continue my speech in English.
  5. A form of traditional Malay poetry.
  6. Pak Tenas Effendy, or Datuk Dr Haji Tengku Nasarudin Said Effendy (1936-2015), was educated as a teacher in Bengkalis and Padang, Sumatra, Indonesia. He was conferred an Honorary Doctorate by the National University of Malaysia (UKM) in 2005. Although without academic training, he collated about 20,000 Malay sayings, 10,000 pantun and wrote about 250 books on Malay language, values, customs, culture and civilisation
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