Speech by Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Communications and Information, at the 4th Mother Tongue Languages Symposium

Published Date: 29 August 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Heng Swee Keat
Minister for Education

Mr Wong Siew Hoong
Director-General of Education

Members of the three Mother Tongue Language Learning and Promotion Committees

Distinguished guests, speakers, colleagues from MOE, parents, ladies and gentlemen

1. Good morning. 大家早。Selamat pagi. Vanakkam.

2. It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to the 4th Mother Tongue Languages Symposium Opening Ceremony and the Outstanding Pre-School Mother Tongue Language Teacher Award Presentation.

3. I am very happy that this is the 4th year we are doing the Symposium and I am particularly happy that our Special Guest, Minister Heng, can be with us today. In my four-and-a-half years with MOE, the Mother Tongue Language Symposium is one of the projects that I am most glad to be associated with, and for which, I am glad to have Minister Heng’s strong support.

4. We started off the Symposium with the belief that parents do understand the important role they play in helping their children become bilingual, and this is a complimentary role to what our schools and educators do. But we know that parents are also busy people, and they need easy access to resources and ideas for helping their children. We also believed that parents would appreciate knowing the latest developments in language teaching, in schools and pre-schools. At the same time, we also believed that there is strong value in bringing together the practitioners and supporters of language education, in all three of our official Mother Tongue Languages. And these were the beliefs that prompted us to start the very first Mother Tongue Language Symposium in 2012, and since then it has grown from strength to strength. I think this shows that our original intent for setting up this platform was based on very real needs.

New Enhancements to the Symposium

5. How has our Symposium grown? I think in at least 3 ways.

6. Sharing sessions. In this Symposium, we have organised more sharing sessions than ever before: from 12 sessions last year, we now have 20. MOE’s curriculum developers will be conducting sessions on the revised 2015 Primary School MTL Curriculum. Parents can look forward to bringing home useful tips to better support your children’s learning of Mother Tongue in fun and engaging ways.

7. Sales booth. The second way in which our Symposium has grown is in terms of the addition of the sales booths. Over the years, we have showcased many types of learning resources at the exhibition booths at the Symposium and many parents have asked whether they can purchase these resources and bring them home after attending our exhibition. I am pleased to share that for this Symposium, we will have an opportunity for parents to purchase these learning resources. Some of these resources have been developed or recommended by our community partners, who have put in a lot of effort to produce useful learning tools to help our children nurture a love for Mother Tongue Languages. We hope to make these learning resources readily available and we do this because we want the experience to be a very pleasant and convenient one for our parents.

8. LiVE!@Heartlands. The third way in which our Symposium had grown is that we no longer confine ourselves to this venue or to this particular day. We have started to extend our outreach beyond the Symposium to the home, to the community. In conjunction with the MOE SG50 Public Exhibition, we have engaged professional arts groups to perform with our very own students at malls like Ang Mo Kio Hub. These cultural groups have been partnering schools for the annual MTL Fortnight, a signature activity that also helps to bring supporters and practitioners of education into our schools and to make the learning of Mother Tongue languages fun. Our students have benefited from programmes like these and we hope that the performances will inspire parents to reinforce their children’s exposure to Mother Tongue languages at home.

Working Together

9. Bilingual education is the cornerstone of our education system and is an important part of our national identity. This endeavour has been a lifelong commitment for founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew. His personal learning journey for Chinese may have started late as an adult, but it lasted his entire life. He firmly believed that English is our common language, but at the same time, our Mother Tongues connect us to our roots and deepen our sense of identity.

10. We are here today to exchange ideas in the promotion of Mother Tongue Languages. As the Malay saying goes, “Berat sama dipikul, ringan sama dijinjing”, let us work together regardless of circumstances, and I believe we could scale greater heights with the unwavering support from all stakeholders, including schools, educators, parents, community partners, the media as well as academia.

11. Schools. Our schools have continued to innovate and engage our children in their learning of Mother Tongue languages. For example, as part of their school-based curriculum, Secondary 2 students from Catholic High School created their own Chinese Language picture books. To inspire their juniors in reading, some of these students also conducted sharing sessions to primary school students. I am encouraged to see older students motivated to help their juniors learn.

12. Educators. Our educators have been leading by example in life-long learning. Mdm Norwati Sulaiman, Lead Teacher from Punggol Primary and Mdm Salina Hussin, Senior Teacher from Pasir Ris Primary have co-written storybooks. Through classroom-based research, they come up with innovative ways to engage the lower primary students with this series of books.

13. Parents. The active involvement of parents is crucial to shaping their child’s interest in the learning of the Mother Tongue. We have invited one parent, Mrs Vallikannu, to share her personal experience on how she plays an active role at home to encourage learning of Tamil Language. She reads bedtime stories to her children, and often brings them to the library to borrow books. Mrs Vallikannu believes this helps to reinforce her children’s learning of Tamil Language in school, and develop positive learning attitudes in them.

14. Community. Our three Mother Tongue Language Learning and Promotion Committees have continued to create an environment conducive to the learning and learning and using of MTLs in and beyond schools.

15. The Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning has introduced several signature programmes in recent years, one of them being 文化随意门, the Cultural Performance Exposure Scheme, which provides subsidies for schools to bring students for Chinese cultural performances. The Bahas 4PM is a national Malay Language debate competition organised in conjunction with 4PM and MediaCorp. It is a major annual event driven by the Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee, to promote oratorical skills in schools. The Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee has introduced various programmes, one of which is Naadaga Medai, a well-received speech and drama programme for students.

16. These community efforts have helped to promote a greater appreciation for Mother Tongue languages in our students. Our students enjoyed these activities and benefitted greatly from them.

17. “Kudi Val inthaal Ko-di Nan-mei”, what it means is when we work in unison, we achieve best results in all our endeavours. Through the partnership of parents and teachers, homes and schools, and supported by a strong community, I am confident we will achieve our goal of keeping our Mother Tongues as “living languages”.

Appreciation to Outstanding Pre-School MTL Teachers

18. Our pre-school teachers play a key role in laying a strong foundation for children’s bilingual learning. This morning, we honour teachers who have been exemplary in their quality of teaching with the Outstanding Pre-school Mother Tongue Language Teacher Award. This Award is organised by the three Mother Tongue Language Learning and Promotion Committees and is also supported by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism.

19. I congratulate all 13 Award recipients. You inspire us with your passion and commitment to nurture a life-long love for languages in our children. I encourage all award-winners to continue to develop their craft, and to share their strategies and insights with their fellow teachers and colleagues.

Tribute and Conclusion

20. On this note, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all parties that are involved in making this Symposium possible. They are the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning, Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee, Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee, Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism, Chinese Language and Culture Fund, Bicultural Taskforce, Early Childhood Development Agency and Singapore Press Holdings.

21. There is a famous saying in Chinese, “千里之行,始于足下”, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Fortunately, in the context of our Mother Tongue Language education, countless pioneer educators have already taken the first steps before us. What we have accomplished today is not possible without the foundation built by them. Let us honour their commitment by continuing the good work in this important and meaningful endeavour.

22. I wish everyone an enjoyable time of learning at the 4th Mother Tongue Languages Symposium.

23. Thank you. 谢谢大家。Terima kasih. Nandri.

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