Speech by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education at the 2020/2021 Most Inspiring Tamil Teachers' Award Ceremony

Published Date: 18 September 2021 06:00 PM

News Speeches

1. A very good afternoon to all. It gives me great pleasure to join you at the Most Inspiring Tamil Teachers' Award Ceremony.

2. Today, we celebrate teachers who ignite the love for Tamil language in our students. Over the years, this award has recognised about 200 inspiring Tamil teachers in our schools. My heartiest congratulations to all the nominees, award winners and their schools.

Continued Importance of Learning Mother Tongue

3. Learning our Mother Tongue is of great importance in our students' educational journey.

  1. First, it is a way to pass on our rich heritage and promote a deeper appreciation of our cultures.
  2. Second, it instills values that shape our students' character which would then help our students navigate the increasingly complex world.
  3. Third, it develops in our students, a sense of identity as to who we are, where we come from, and how we can move forward together as one people. Because ultimately, the Singapore identity is not just about looking back to our race, language and religion, or just looking forward to a set of unified values without the roots. In Singapore, we believe in having both. Building a shared common vision, a set of shared values, and yet at the same time, honouring and respecting our diverse roots. That's what makes Singapore unique.

4. This will not only strengthen our sense of multicultural identity in Singapore, it will allow us to distinguish ourselves from many other societies.

5. Being bilingual provides us with a different set of cultural lens and perspectives which in turn builds the confidence of Singaporeans to contribute and to remain relevant to the world.

6. So it is important to continue ensuring that students find the joy of learning Mother Tongue languages. But of course, we understand that there are some challenges faced by our Tamil teachers. One of the key challenges is creating a conducive learning environment for students to use Tamil beyond schools. This is not unique to the Tamil language, but all Mother Tongue Languages. The 2020 census has shown that the macro environment, be it the business environment or the home environment, reflects the predominant use of English. It is especially important to focus on Mother Tongue languages as we continue to observe English as the main spoken language.

7. To overcome these challenges, the Ministry of Education (or MOE) believes in collaborating with the community to support our Tamil teachers and complement the learning in schools, as well as developing programmes that expose our students to many new learning opportunities.

Role of the Community in the Learning of Tamil Language

8. As part of these efforts, MOE set up the Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committees (or TLLPC) in 2006. Over the years, TLLPC has been playing an active role in the promotion and learning of Tamil.

9. This includes developing relevant education content and working with key partners such as Tamil Language Council, Tamil Murasu and Singapore Tamil Teachers' Union (or STTU) to create meaningful programmes that positively impact the Tamil community.

a. Since 2017, TLLPC has been educating parents and children on the fun ways that they can learn Tamil through their annual event 'Azhagae Tamizhae'. This year, to overcome the constraints of COVID-19, the event was conducted on an online platform, and used green screen technology with images from various countries superimposed, to simulate students traveling around the world as they went through a series of activities. Activity kits were delivered to the participants' homes so that they could actively participate in the online workshops.

10. Our community partners are also using digital platforms to instill the joy of learning Tamil in students. Tamil Murasu has started an online quiz series, 'Manavar Murasu Puthir', to enhance students' exposure to Tamil and nurture an appreciation of their culture. Such online platforms also help parents to reinforce their child's learning at home.

11. In addition, our community partners have been providing professional development opportunities for teachers. For instance, STTU organised Teacher Work attachment programmes to Malaysia and India, and following the COVID-19 travel restrictions, they have been encouraging educators to participate in online workshops and seminars conducted by academics from these countries. Such programmes provide teachers with opportunities to have professional discourse with overseas educators, which broadens their perspectives and create new learning experiences.

Making Mother Tongue Learning a Lifelong Pursuit

12. For schools, we will continue to help our Tamil students by developing programmes suited to their abilities.

13. In addition to the National Elective Tamil Programme (NETP), we have introduced the Tamil Language Elective Programme (TLEP) in 2020.

14. These programmes support promising students to attain a high level of language proficiency in Tamil and enhance their understanding of Tamil literature and culture. Both programmes provide opportunities for students to participate in literature-based activities, local camps and overseas immersion trips.

15. Nethiyaa Tharrsini, is a Tamil Teacher who graduated from the NETP. She shared that the programme enriched her and provided the opportunity to learn Tamil beyond the classroom. She shared how NETP played a significant role in her decision to become a Tamil teacher and impart the joy of learning Tamil to future generations.

16. Through these programmes, we aim to continue nurturing effectively bilingual and bicultural students just like Nethiyaa.

Shaping Our Tomorrow

17. All these efforts would not have been possible without the dedication of our teachers.

18. We have witnessed how COVID-19 has impacted the entire world, creating a wave of uncertainty and challenges. However, many of us have emerged stronger and have leveraged the opportunities the crisis has presented.

19. Educators too, have risen to the challenge of exploring innovative ways of engaging our students amidst the crisis. This process of "metamorphosis" is aptly the theme of today's award ceremony.

20. When teachers develop themselves and gain new knowledge, they create engaging resources and programmes that support students in becoming more confident learners.

21. Take for instance, Mr Malaiarasu and Mrs Sumathy Thirumaran, who are two of our Most Inspiring Tamil Teacher 2021 winners.

22. Mr Malaiarasu from Damai Primary School started the Broadcast Journalism project to provide authentic contexts for his students to use Tamil Language. Through his programme, students were exposed to skills such as scripting, filming, interviewing and public speaking. This helped to ignite the joy of learning in his students.

23. Mrs Sumathy Thirumaran from Marsiling Secondary School inculcates the joy of learning Tamil in her students and inspires her fellow teachers with innovative ideas in teaching the language. Her enthusiasm for learning has led her to start a Tamil E-Newsletter in school which allowed her students to learn Tamil in an authentic setting.

24. As we continue to chart a path forward for the learning of Tamil language, we should appreciate the foundation laid by pioneer teachers. We are honouring them today with the Lifetime Achievement Awards.

25. One of the awardees is Mr K Chandramoorthy. He had served the teaching fraternity for more than 46 years and started his teaching career as a Tamil teacher at St George's Tamil School in 1964. From the beginning, he understood that a strong home-school collaboration is pivotal to language learning. In his early days of teaching, he created opportunities for students to learn beyond the classroom and encouraged them to read with their family. He also contributed actively to the community by serving as Treasurer and Vice-president for STTU. Even though he has retired, he remains an educator at heart by teaching Tamil to the seniors in our community.

26. Thank you Mr K Chandramoorthy, and our other Lifetime Achievement Awardees, Dr A RA Sivakumaran and Dr Tamilarasi Subramaniam, for your dedication in nurturing students and being a source of inspiration to Tamil teachers today.

Conclusion

27. To all the finalists, I am truly heartened by your passion towards educating and caring for our students. Thank you for your invaluable contributions, and I hope you will continue to inspire more students and fellow colleagues in this meaningful journey.

28. Nandri. Vanakkam.

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