Speeches/Interviews

June 30, 2018

Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Second Minister for Education at the Symposium for Pre-School Tamil Language Teachers at Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre, Auditorium

Mr Vikram Nair, MP for Sembawang GRC, Chairman TLLPC
TLLPC Deputy Chairmen and Committee Members
Mdm Heng Boey Hong, Director Mother Tongue Languages Branch, MOE
Distinguished Guests
Teachers
Ladies and Gentlemen
Vanakkam

1. It gives me great pleasure to join you today at this Symposium for Pre-school Tamil Language Teachers 2018 organised by the Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee (TLLPC). The event is aligned with TLLPC’s objectives of promoting the use of the Tamil Language beyond the classroom, and to support the Teaching and Learning of the language in schools. It is heartening to note that TLLPC is bringing the Tamil Language preschool fraternity together to strengthen them professionally as Early Childhood Educators. In fact, this annual event for Tamil Language Preschool educators was first launched last year and it had received positive feedback from its participants.

2. In his National Day message, PM Lee had stated that “the early childhood years make a big difference to children not just academically, but for life”. Indeed, pre-school education shapes and moulds a child’s character and learning at a tender age. The learning experience that you are providing forms a lasting impression on what education is going to be for the child. It sets the crucial foundation and prepares them for the journey of learning that is to come. Thus, this experience has to be engaging, impactful and enjoyable for the child.

3. To strengthen bilingualism in our students, MTLs are now made available in more preschools. Research findings support the fact that language is best learnt and retained at an early age. It also informs us that early exposure to Mother Tongue Language is beneficial for children’s cognitive development, language analysis and creativity. It is also proven to improve our children’s social skills and help build their self-identity. The teaching and learning of the Mother Tongue Languages also enable students to be imbued with community values and to appreciate the rich multicultural milieu that they live in. By teaching the language teachers are not only helping the children with their own culture but also helping them to build a bridge to South Asia which will stand them in good stead in later life as India grows. As such, pre-school MTL teachers play a very important role in setting the child’s foundation in the Mother Tongue language for life and are vital in moulding our nation’s future – this is something we cannot stress enough.

4. In order to achieve these student outcomes, it is critical for our Tamil teachers to enhance their knowledge base and understanding of Tamil culture and values, so that they themselves can be role models for the students. Tamil Teachers play a key role in preserving our traditions through the teaching and learning of the Language and bringing it to life in the classrooms. The literature, art forms, and cultural exposure are opportunities for students to learn and acquire various aspects of their culture and values.

5. This is why the theme of today’s symposium, ‘Valuing our Culture and Tradition – Aaduvomey! Kondaaduvomey!’ reiterates the importance of introducing tradition and culture to our pre-schoolers in a fun-filled manner. A crucial element of our culture is the moral values that we esteem and uphold over the generations. As we all know, as new trends and technology evolve, the skills and knowledge we learn today may be insignificant in years to come. But when we invest our time and effort in nurturing values at a tender age, we equip our younger generation with a moral compass to stand the test of time. This enables them to build their lives for themselves and care for those around them as they grow. We need our future generation to be respectful, responsible, and appreciative. These values would guide them to be socially responsible and contributing citizens. Thus, it bears repeating - early educators play a very crucial role.

6. I am very pleased to note that today, we have with us, well-known writer and documentary film producer, Mr Bharathi Krishnakumar from Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Mr Bharathi has vast experience in producing documentaries and movies highlighting the importance of education and social issues. He will be speaking on helping children forge the connection between their personal identity and culture, which is what we hope our educators can do through the learning of Tamil Language.

7. In addition, the four concurrent sessions to be held later today will share about how music and songs can transform classrooms into a positive learning environment and also transmit heritage and culture. Other sessions will throw the spotlight on the use of stories and purposeful play to develop values and character in our children, and make the learning of Tamil enjoyable. We hope you will appreciate and find value in all these sharings.

8. Indeed, partnering parents and the community to actively promote the use of Mother Tongue Languages is key, so that our children will continue to have many opportunities to use their Mother Tongue outside the classroom. This year, TLLPC has collaborated with Wildlife Reserves Singapore to embark on the Wow Wild Learn Tamil Programme for pre-schoolers at the River Safari. At the concurrent sessions later, two of our preschool educators from Khalsa Kindergarten, who have undergone the training programme and brought their students on the learning journey to the River Safari, will share their experiences. I have no doubt the children – and their teachers – had lots of fun too!

9. Today we will also launch the Theenchittu mobile app for pre-schoolers. This app will provide students with the opportunity to engage in purposeful play and have great fun while learning the Tamil Language and culture. I am glad to note that TLLPC is constantly exploring innovative ways to enthuse the learning of Tamil in and beyond the classroom. We look forward to TLLPC developing many more of such resources to make the teaching and learning of Tamil joyful and meaningful for young learners.

10. I have always believed that every teacher is a driver of change. As change agents you are the role models in knowing, understanding and appreciating our tradition and culture. I strongly encourage our Tamil teachers to actively participate in this signature event, so that you can then transfer the learning to the children. Together, we can make Mother Tongue come alive in our classrooms and make our students’ learning meaningful and joyful!

11. On this note, I wish all of you a fruitful and fulfilling Symposium.

12. Nandri. Thank you.