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Love our Languages! Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism Community Series  


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New campus of Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre

SPEECH BY MR S ISWARAN, MINISTER TO PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE, SECOND MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS AND SECOND MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE NEW CAMPUS OF UMAR PULAVAR TAMIL LANGUAGE CENTRE ON SATURDAY, 4 AUGUST 2012 AT 1030 HRS

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Deputy Prime Minister

Ms Ho Peng
Director-General of Education

Mrs Chua Yen Ching
Director, Curriculum Planning and Development Division

Dr SP Thinnappan
Chairman, Centre Advisory Committee

Mr Jeyarajadas Pandian
Supervisor of Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre

Distinguished Guests
Teachers, Students and Parents,

Good morning.

  1. I am pleased to join you this morning for the official opening of the new campus of Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre (UPTLC). This occasion marks yet another important chapter in the history of Tamil education in Singapore. I am very pleased to see so many teachers, students, community partners and Tamil community leaders coming together to celebrate this auspicious event.

    UPTLC’s role in shaping Tamil education in Singapore

  2. Since its inception in 1945, UPTLC has made significant strides in its role as a centre for Tamil learning. UPTLC has come a long way from its humble beginnings at shared premises at St George’s Road School, to this modern, well-equipped, purpose built centre.

  3. Since 2001, UPTLC played two key roles: one, as a Tamil language teaching centre for students; and the second as a national resource centre. Our schools recognise UPTLC’s catalytic role in the teaching and learning of the Tamil Language in Singapore, and its rich Tamil resources are widely used by schools. For example, the first Mother Tongue Language (MTL) Fortnight programme held at UPTLC last year attracted nearly 2000 students. (With the support of the Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee, UPTLC has also successfully organised 5 overseas immersion programmes since 2007.)

  4. In 2010, UPTLC expanded its role to become our national Professional Development Centre for Tamil language teachers. The Centre has spearheaded our efforts to build the capacity of Tamil teachers as leaders in education and to grow as a community of learners. For example, two of our Master Teachers for Tamil Language, along with 14 other experienced Tamil teachers conduct regular training and professional development courses in UPTLC. UPTLC’s new campus has been equipped with special facilities to nurture collegiate learning within the community of Tamil educators. The Master Class Studio provides teachers the opportunity to enhance their craft by observing lessons conducted by experienced teachers. Such programmes offer our Tamil teachers ongoing opportunities for professional development. 

    New Initiatives by UPTLC

  5. UPTLC has also embarked on several new initiatives. Today, I am happy to announce that from this year, UPTLC will anchor the National Elective Tamil Language Programme (NETP) which will cater to secondary students taking Higher Tamil and JC students offering Tamil as a H2 subject. This programme aims to enrich the learning of Tamil language, literature and culture. It is off to a good start with more than 50 TL students enrolling in the programme. NETP students at the JC level, who have the interest and potential to acquire a deeper proficiency in the language, will also be awarded scholarships.

  6. Another notable initiative is UPTLC’s new ‘Tamil Education in Singapore Heritage Gallery’ which will be launched later today. The gallery will highlight the history of Tamil education in Singapore, and how the community has contributed to it. The heritage gallery is a tribute to the dynamic evolution of Tamil language learning in Singapore, and will serve as a valuable resource for Tamil educators, students and researchers. 

  7. The Centre has also collaborated with media partners to enthuse and enhance students’ love for Tamil. UPTLC partners Tamil Murasu, to give students a hands-on experience in news reporting, editing and publication. For example, during the Tamil Language Month this year, students were given the opportunity to be student reporters and they wrote articles for the daily paper. The Centre has collaborated with MediaCorp Oli 96.8 to create ‘Ilaiya nila’, the very first student Deejay centre in Singapore. This milestone programme was well received by students. The project was awarded the ‘Best Ideator Award’ at the 2010 PS21 Excel Convention. 

  8. The Centre has also worked closely with community organizations, like SINDA, for the promotion of Tamil language and culture. I am encouraged to know that the UPTLC has developed in its students a strong sense of belonging, community spirit and service mindedness, and to use Tamil creatively. Today, the Centre counts among its alumni a number of Tamil teachers, news editors in Tamil Murasu, and Tamil artistes and deejays. 

  9. The Government’s support for UPTLC and the learning of Tamil is part of our larger national emphasis on bilingual education. Our bilingual policy of learning English and the MTLs has served us well. It gives our students an edge in the global economy, and centres us as an Asian society. Bilingualism will continue to be the cornerstone of our education system. We will encourage our students to learn Tamil to as high a level, and for as long as they can, with the strong support of parents and community organizations in providing a conducive TL learning environment for our students. 

  10. Research has shown that early exposure to a bilingual environment helps to build a strong foundation for bilingual learning in later years. Hence, the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism has invited the community to submit proposals to nurture bilingualism in EL and the MTLs in young children. I am pleased to learn that the Board of the Fund is of the view that it is important that language learning not be limited to the school setting, but extended into the homes and environment of our children where the community can play a part. 

  11. Even as technology plays an ever-increasing role in society, some basic methods of language learning, particularly reading from an early age, will always stand the test of time. Members of the Board have spoken up passionately for the need to create and promote MTL books of good quality, and which are well-suited to our local context. There is certainly a need for such resources in the community, and I think we are wellplaced to mount such an effort where the Tamil language is concerned. Other countries, such as the US and Canada, have commended the quality of Tamil teaching and learning resources that Singapore has developed and are using our textbooks and workbooks for the teaching and learning of Tamil, such as US and Canada. I encourage the Tamil community to submit proposals to the LKY Bilingualism Fund in order to continue to develop such quality resources and programmes that enliven the language and make it fun young children. 

    Conclusion

  12. In closing, let me congratulate all staff and students on the official opening of the new campus of the Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre. Your passion and mission to make Tamil a living language in Singapore is inspiring. I am confident that with the support of the Government, the community, dedicated teachers, and the enthusiasm of the students, Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre will continue to grow from strength to strength. I wish the Supervisor and team at UPTLC every success in your exciting, challenging and meaningful responsibility to nurture the love and learning of Tamil in our students. Thank you.