Speech by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for National Development Indranee Rajah at the 2023 Most Inspiring Tamil Teachers' Award Ceremony on 16 September 2023.
Mr Vikram Nair, Chairman, Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee
Ms Liew Wei Li, Director-General of Education, Ministry of Education
Mr V.Palanisamy, Associate Editor of Tamil Murasu
Mr Danapal Kumar, President of the Singapore Tamil Teachers’ Union
Distinguished guests from Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee and Tamil Murasu,
Educators, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to join you today, at this presentation ceremony of the Most Inspiring Tamil Teachers’ Award 2023 or MITT.
September is the month where we celebrate our teachers for their selfless dedication in nurturing our future generations so let me start off with a poem for them.
Teachers proudly stand in front of the class
With knowledge and influence en masse,
Igniting a flame in curious minds
Proficiently as the lessons unwind.
Teaching, a calling that burns deep inside
To instruct thirsty, inquisitive minds.
Installing passion that leads to success.
Inspiring pupils to give of their best.
Encouraging scholars' creative gifts,
Praising, applauding whatever it is.
Those who are taught well live well, get ahead.
Blessed are the teachers, it has to be said.
This is an excerpt from the poem titled ‘Teachers’ by Beryl L. On this special occasion, I would like to wish all teachers a Happy Teachers’ Day.
I am happy to honour our outstanding Tamil Language teachers from Primary, and Secondary schools, Junior colleges, and Centralized institute. We are indeed grateful that Tamil Murasu (TM), Singapore Tamil Teachers’ Union (STTU) and Tamil Language Learning & Promotion Committee (TLLPC) have come together the last 22 years to recognize and affirm over 200 inspiring Tamil Language Teachers who have been role models to other Tamil Language educators in nurturing the next generation of students to become proficient users of the Tamil Language. My heartiest congratulations to all the nominees, award winners and their schools.
Leveraging on Our Strength: Bilingualism
I would like to touch on the tribute video shown a while ago. It is a timely reminder of why our founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had emphasized the importance of Singaporeans remaining effectively bilingual. He had mentioned that while English connected us to the world and was needed for trade, our Mother Tongue languages provided us the means to tap on the rich heritage that our culture offers and that it imbues values that shape our character and develop a sense of identity as to who we are and where we come from. Strengthening our identity is key to our survival in the region and the world. Hence, we should continue the good work of our pioneer generation in strengthening the relationship with our neighbouring countries in South Asia.
Therefore, it is important for our children to maximize this opportunity to build a strong foundation in bilingualism. Being bilingual or even bicultural opens many doors and opportunities. If our children have a strong foundation in bilingualism, the world is truly their oyster. Our bilingual policy and education enable Singaporeans to enjoy the best of both worlds – from preserving our roots, our heritage, to navigating the modern world. This is also one of our core objectives of the special programmes such as National Elective Tamil Programme and Tamil Language Elective Programme for our secondary and Junior college students.
Making Language Learning Come Alive
The endemic crisis has swept through the entire world since 2020, creating an unparalleled wave of uncertainty and challenges. However, many of us have emerged stronger, united in our aim to ride these rough tides and have leveraged on the opportunities the crisis had presented. Similarly, educators have risen to the challenge of exploring innovative ways of engaging our students amidst the endemic. Our educators can be compared to banyan trees. which is the theme of today’s award ceremony. Just like how banyan trees stand strong and spread their canopy with aerial roots over large piece of land, our educators remain strongly rooted in core values amidst the uncertain challenges and continue to give their best in nurturing the next generations.
As language teachers, you are given an admirable task of seeding your students’ thoughts and ideas, inspiring them to speak and write the language to express themselves and communicate the language. Over time, we hope they will grow to love the language. This year, we welcome 9 such recipients who will be honoured for their passion for the Tamil language that has inspired their students to love the language and are advocates in sustaining Tamil as a living language. Research shows that making the learning of Mother Tongue language meaningful, relevant, and engaging in today’s multilingual and diverse society is a challenge, especially when there has been a visible language shift from the speaking of MTL towards English in recent years at home and social settings (Zhao & Liu, 2007).
Take for instance, Mdm Kayal Vizhi and Mdm Shamini, who are two of our Most Inspiring Tamil Teacher 2023 winners.
Mdm Kayal from Zhangde Primary School explores new pedagogies with her team. To develop students’ love for Tamil, she and her team produced Pow Toon story videos to enthuse students to listen to curated readers. Her Teaching & learning innovation, through all -time favourite card games such as Snap, Donkey and Happy Family, helped students strengthen their vocabulary. By infusing creative methods in her daily lessons, she engages her students meaningfully and ignites the joy of learning Tamil. She firmly believes in making meaningful changes to suit the learning needs of her students by cohorts, thus engaging in life-long learning.
Mdm Shamini Rajakumar from Tampines Meridian Junior College nurture students’ interest in the Tamil language and Literature by providing them with a wide range of experiences. She actively organises learning journey, workshop, seminar, and competitions for students to learn beyond classroom. For instance, she groomed the student debaters to take part in the National Tamil Debates that got into the semi-finals. She strongly feels that such experiences helps to shape students’ confidence in using the language. Mdm Shamini also actively partners with external community organisations like SINDA, IHC and NLB to enable students to experience authentic settings to use the language beyond the schools as well as to prepare themselves to be future ready. She strongly believes that these experiences will enable them to realize the importance of being part of the larger community and to contribute actively on top of nurturing their interest in Tamil language, culture, and heritage.
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.
One of the awardees is Mdm Mallika. She has been serving the teaching fraternity for more than 36 years and still continues her teaching career as a Tamil teacher in Yishun Innova Junior College. From the beginning, she understood that consistent efforts are pivotal for language learning. Being part of the organizing team of the National Pre-University Seminar during Tamil Language Festival in the month of April for the last 16 years, she has been empowering students to be confident leaders and speakers. She has also been part of Singapore Tamil Youth Club to work closely with youth and motivate them to lead activities such as Tamil Seminars, book launch (Singapore Tamils 200 Vol 1 and 2) and other community programs.
Thank you Mdm Mallika, and our other Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Mr Anjappan for your unwavering dedication in nurturing students and being a source of inspiration to Tamil teachers.
Making Learning Come Alive with the Community
It is heartening to note that various organisations and community partners have continued to play a key role in promoting Tamil Language and the Indian culture.
Our community partners are also using digital platforms to instill the joy of learning Tamil in students. For instance, Tamil Murasu enhances its publications by producing content that students find engaging and interesting and it will strengthen its presence on social media platforms such as Instagram, Telegram and TikTok. Let’s wish them all the best as they venture to launch a new app as announced a while ago. Hopefully, the app would be able to garner more interest among potential readers.
The Singapore Tamil Teachers Union supports and nurtures our Tamil Language teachers. It also organises a wide range of activities to cater to the professional development of Tamil Language Teachers. This year they are leading a team of educators to Mauritius for the 14th World Tamil Teachers' Conference that will be taking place from 8 to 10th December. This will be an excellent platform for the teaching fraternity to share, network and innovate on how to bring Tamil Language Learning alive on a global level.
The Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee has rallied various stakeholders together to create a conducive environment for the learning and use of Tamil Language beyond schools.
Besides its signature events such as the Preschool Symposium for Tamil Language Teachers and helping parents to support the learning of Tamil in a fun and easy way through the programme Tamizhodu Enaivoum, it also supports the funding for meaningful programmes initiated by community partners and art groups.
We truly value our community partners from the different sectors coming together to make language learning meaningful and relevant for our future generation.
In conclusion, I thank the organising committee for your hard work in making this award ceremony possible.
I applaud and thank every parent, educator, and community partner for your efforts to make the teaching and learning of Tamil Language both a meaningful and fun experience for our children.
On this note, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to all award recipients and their family members on this special occasion.
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