Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister for Education (Schools) at the Most Inspiring Tamil Teacher Award

Published Date: 02 September 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

The child arrives like a mystery box with puzzle pieces inside some of the pieces are broken or missing and others just seem to hide

But the heart of a teacher can sort them out and help the child to see the potential for greatness he has within a picture of what he can be

Her goal isn’t just to teach knowledge by filling the box with more parts it’s putting the pieces together to create a work of art

1. This is an excerpt from the poem Heart of a Teacher by Paula J. Fox. I chose to start this with a poem as Teachers’ Day has just passed and I would like to wish all the teachers here a Happy Teachers’ Day.

2. It is an honour for me to grace today’s event - The Most Inspiring Tamil Teachers’ Award Ceremony 2017.

3. Teachers have a special place in our hearts. I’m happy to honour our outstanding Tamil Language teachers in our primary and secondary schools and junior colleges. I’m happy that Tamil Murasu (TM) started this all the way back in 2002; supported by the Singapore Tamil Teachers’ Union (STTU).

4. Together with the Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee (TLLPC), I’m happy to see the partnership to support this award. I am sure TM, TLLPC & STTU are also partnering in promoting Mother Tongue as a living language in our community.

5. To date, the organising committee has given 170 awards to deserving Tamil Language educators in Singapore. These exemplary teachers have touched the hearts of their pupils and peers. Their passion for the Tamil language has inspired others to, likewise, love the language. They have made a positive difference in many lives.

Our Language – Communication, Culture and Connection

6. Our Mother Tongue teachers are entrusted with the duty to shape the lives of future generations of Singaporeans.They not only prepare our students to plug into a globalised world, they also strengthen links to our Asian heritage through our Mother Tongue.

7. They are not only nurturing our students with creative, critical thinking through the languages, including Mother Tongue to also enable our students to convey their ideas confidently, in both written and spoken forms. These are essential 21 CC skillsets. Given our uniquely Singapore racial make-up, we should make full use of our bilingualism to pursue learning and also economic opportunities.

8. Equally important, teachers also inculcate values through our Mother Tongue. In schools, this is done in part through literature lessons, stories and during the Mother Tongue lessons. Special language programmes such as the National Elective Tamil Language Programme also play a key role.

9. We have achieved much in the teaching and learning of the Tamil language. As a teaching fraternity, as a community, we will need to continue to work hard towards achieving our goal of making Tamil Language a living language. We need to continue to explore ways to inspire our new generation of Mother Tongue teachers and learners to be engaged in the teaching and learning of the language and culture.

Inspiring Educators of Today and Tomorrow

10. Let me illustrate my points with two stories on how teachers make a positive difference.

11. Ms Kaamini Subramaniam, whom I met earlier, told me that her interest in Tamil language was fired-up when she was in secondary school. She attended Tamil Language classes at Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre here.

12. The teachers made learning very fun and interactive. They went the extra mile when she was in doubt and built her confidence in the language. They were the ones who had instilled the interest and thirst to learn more about the Tamil language and the Indian culture. She was recently awarded the scholarship to pursue a diploma in Tamil studies with Early Education (TSE) in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. When she graduates, she will become a Tamil language preschool teacher. I wish her all the best.

13. The TSE is a new course introduced in 2017 and offered by Ngee Ann Poly. It opens up an exciting career ahead for those passionate in the Tamil language and in nurturing young children to have a strong foundation and love for the language and culture. We are happy that young Singaporeans like Kaamini are willing to take up this meaningful endeavour to be a Tamil Language educator and cultural transmitter.

14. Ms Sivakami d/o Ratha was one of the finalists in the Outstanding Youth Educator Award 2016 and is currently teaching at Yishun Primary School. She shared that her Tamil teachers had a special touch and built a strong rapport with her and her peers.

15. They had created a conducive learning environment to acquire Tamil, which encouraged her to think creatively and to express her thoughts confidently. She says that it was her Tamil teachers’ selfless acts that inspired her to be a Tamil Language teacher.

16. Her teacher went the extra mile to find time to stretch her language skills by offering her enrichment classes that were not part of the school programme. Knowing her strengths, they encouraged her to take part in competitions and would even give up their own free time to accompany her on weekends to Tamil Language competitions. This uncommon commitment and dedication motivated her to do her best and increased her love of the language even more.

17. These two are touching stories of our teachers and we hope to hear more from Kaamini and Sivakami when they fully explore

the teaching journey to inspire young lives.

Our Community - It take a Village to Raise a Child

18. Along with teachers, there is another group that we know that plays a critical role in making language learning relevant and engaging.

19. As we know, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. In Singapore, our various organisations and community partners play a key role in promoting Tamil Language and the Indian culture.

20. For example, our National Tamil newspaper, Tamil Murasu, has been supporting the learning of Tamil Language since 1935. Apart from its daily edition, it also boosts the use of Tamil Language amongst our young learners through its student publications. This includes Manavar Murasu, Illayar Murasu and its newest addition Balar Murasu which is targeted for pre-schoolers.

21. The Singapore Tamil Teachers Union has also played a pivotal role in supporting, developing and caring for our Tamil Language teachers over the years. Their teacher development programmes include overseas immersion programmes and World Tamil Language conferences held in India, Malaysia, Singapore and Mauritius.

22. STTU had initiated the World Tamil Teachers' Conference in 1992 and coordinates biennial conference in various countries. I am happy to note that the 12th World Tamil Teachers' Conference will be held in Singapore next year.

23. The Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee is another strategic partner that has provided a diverse range of opportunities for the young to use the language. It has been organising engaging and meaningful activities and programmes to support the teaching and learning of Tamil Language. It has also been supporting many community organisations in promoting Tamil Language beyond the classrooms.

24. For example, this year alone, the TLLPC has come up with 3 new initiatives, which includes Pre-school Seminar, parent-child programme entitled Tamilodu Enaivoum and media experience for the JC students. TLLPC will continue to engage the various community partners in promoting Tamil language among the youths

25. We are indeed thankful for the unwavering support of all community partners and stakeholders who have made this possible.


26. In conclusion, I thank the organising committee for your hard work in making this award ceremony possible.

27. I applaud and thank every parent, educator and community partner for your efforts taken to make the teaching and learning of Tamil Language both a meaningful and fun experience for our children.

28. Your commitment to MTL and Tamil learning and promotion is an important one, both for Singapore and for our future generations.

29. I also would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to all award recipients and their family members on this special occasion. I hope all of you will continue to inspire more students and fellow colleagues in this meaningful journey.

30. Nandri. Thank You.

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