Good morning. 早安。Selamat pagi. Vanakkam.

It is my pleasure to open the 3rd Mother Tongue Languages Symposium and welcome you to the Outstanding Pre-School Mother Tongue Language Teacher Award Presentation.

The Journey Thus Far

The MTL Symposium has entered its third year. We started it with the aim of creating a special day for supporters of our mother tongue languages – be they educators, parents, community stakeholders or academics – to come together, share ideas and update each other on developments in teaching and learning in schools and pre-schools. The purpose: to help our children enjoy learning their mother tongue languages.

This year’s Symposium is bigger and better than last year’s, thanks to encouraging feedback from participants like yourselves. We have more exhibitors and more sharing sessions and workshops this year, showcasing a wider range of innovative teaching approaches.

We have also introduced a new element this year – a stream of performances from special folks we call “Friends of MTL Fortnight”. They are made up of groups and organisations who have been partnering schools for the Mother Tongue Language exposure programme known as the MTL Fortnight, which every school organises. Our schoolchildren have been benefiting from these programmes, but parents seldom get a chance to experience them. We have invited them here today, and we hope that their performances and sharing can inspire parents to reinforce the exposure to MTLs at home.

Last year, we found that many participants lingered on at the showcases and stalls well after the official closing time of 5pm. So, this year, the Symposium will be a longer event – we will stay open till 8pm.

Efforts by Schools to Enrich and Enthuse

Our schools have continued to think up and implement innovative ideas for teaching the Mother Tongue Languages. An example is West Spring Primary with their “Purposeful Learning Activity for Young”, also known as the “PLAY” approach, which is extensively used for the building of listening and oral skills. Activities such as Physical Play, Dramatic Play, ICT Play and Object Play are incorporated into learning, allowing students to use Chinese language in an authentic setting that is fun yet challenging.

St. Anthony’s Canossian Primary School organises thematic school-based MTL Fortnight activities to enhance students’ appreciation for the Malay language and culture. Activities such as food tasting, playing traditional games and wearing traditional costumes help students to enjoy the learning of their language and culture.

In Admiralty Primary School, drama is used to enhance students’ spoken Tamil. Teachers ensure that students with different learning needs will benefit from the Drama Programme. Most importantly, students gain confidence in speaking the language and learn to express themselves more fluently through dramatisation.

Support from the Community

All this is complemented by efforts from the various community groups to provide opportunities for students to use their Mother Tongue Languages beyond the classroom.

The three committees to promote Mother Tongue Languages have rallied various stakeholders to this end. The Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning has several signature programmes, such as the Cultural Performance Exposure Scheme, Author-in-Residence Programme and Literary Forums – Literature Under the April Sky.

The Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee also drives a number of signature initiatives. The Pesta Pantun has been a major annual event to promote poetry in schools. The Perkampungan Bahasa, a language residential camp for secondary school students, provides an immersive environment for them to learn and use the Malay Language. Penglipur Lara benefits primary school students with its workshop and storytelling competition, nurturing them to be creative and confident speakers.

The Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee has introduced various platforms to engage students and nurture their love for Tamil Language. For instance, Edugai, a well-received song writing programme, provides a platform for students to immerse themselves in song-writing and music composition. Another notable initiative is the Theatre Workshop, which aims to promote spoken Tamil among secondary school students. A short-film making workshop and competition organised by the committee engages students through new media.

The setting up of the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism in recent years has boosted our efforts in promoting bilingualism. For a start, the Fund is focusing at the pre-school level to nurture a love for bilingual learning in our children from young. The Fund has sponsored several projects, including the development of picture books, songs, digital stories, language games and other publications for young children set in the local context. These would augment the pool of locally available resources for pre-school children.

The efforts by the community groups and organisations, together with the hard work of our schools, create a conducive and vibrant environment for our children. The positive impact of the collective effort is reflected well in the following Malay pantun.

Jikalau tuan mengangkat peti,
Tolong masukkan segala barang;
Jikalau kita bersatu hati,
Kerja yang susah menjadi senang 1

My hope is for our parents to complete the picture by actively tapping into the available resources and providing support to their children in the learning of Mother Tongue Languages. Parents play a vital role in helping their children develop a positive attitude towards the learning of languages, and in reinforcing the benefits reaped from the efforts of schools and community groups. Just as the Tamil saying goes, “Oor koodi theer elukka veendum”, meaning, ‘it takes many people to pull the chariot”, each and every one of us has a role to play in transmitting the love for our Mother Tongue Languages to the next generation.

2015 Primary MTL Curriculum

We are constantly mindful of the need to ensure that our Mother Tongue curriculum stays effective and relevant to changing needs.

In line with recommendations by the 2010 MTL Review Committee, MOE will be introducing the 2015 Primary MTL Curriculum, starting from Primary 1 next year and progressively to all subsequent levels. Since the review in 2010, there have been ongoing efforts to update the MTL curriculum. One of them is the introduction of the Interaction Package in 2011, which contains teaching resources and a guide for teachers to facilitate students’ interaction skills through various activities in class. The iMTL Portal was also introduced in 2013, providing an interactive ICT platform for students, further leveraging technology to engage students in the learning of Mother Tongue Languages.

These progressive enhancements have been incorporated into the 2015 Primary MTL curriculum. The curriculum aims to develop students into proficient language users who can communicate confidently and effectively in real-life situations. There will be a greater focus on authentic activities to strengthen our students’ communication skills. The curriculum will also encourage language use in its various forms, while continuing to expose students to the rich culture and values embedded in the language.

One of the features of this curriculum will be the introduction of a set of story characters that are of similar age as our students. These characters will appear in the stories of the big books and in the related animation. The stories will be set in real-life contexts and students will be able to relate well to the characters’ experiences, as these characters will ‘grow’ with the students. These characters will also help to highlight the learning objectives for each lesson and be role models in the use of the language.

This curriculum will also see a greater leverage on the use of ICT to enhance the teaching and learning of Mother Tongue Languages. ICT resources such as videos, animations and digital interactive games will continue to be developed to make the learning of MTL fun and meaningful.

The 2015 Primary MTL Curriculum builds on the strong foundation of the current curriculum. It will continue to be guided by students’ developmental progression in language acquisition, such as by beginning with the development of their oral skills. Differentiated pedagogical approaches have also been weaved into the design of the curriculum to cater to students with different starting points and language ability.

We hope that this curriculum will enable our students to build a good foundation in their Mother Tongue Languages and develop confidence in using these languages in their daily lives. It is also important that we help our students nurture their interest for lifelong learning. This positive attitude of continuous learning is very aptly encapsulated by the Chinese saying “活到老,学到老”, meaning one should continue to learn regardless of age.

Tribute to Outstanding Pre-School MTL Teachers

Efforts to encourage bilingualism in pre-schools will enable our children to build a strong foundation for language learning when they enter primary school. Our pre-school teachers are key in this effort. This morning, we honour teachers who have been exemplary in their work with the Outstanding Pre-school Mother Tongue Language Teacher Award. The Award is organised by the three committees to promote Mother Tongue Languages and is supported by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism.

I congratulate the 15 Outstanding and Merit Award recipients. They inspire us with their passion in helping children to build a good foundation in learning the Mother Tongue Languages from young, using a variety of pedagogical approaches. May you continue to nurture more youngsters and help them become motivated learners and confident users of their Mother Tongue Languages.

Conclusion

On this note, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all the parties that are involved in making this symposium possible. They are the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning, Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee, Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee, Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism, Bicultural Taskforce, Early Childhood Development Agency and Singapore Press Holdings – Lianhe Zaobao student publications.

I wish everyone a fruitful and memorable day.

Thank you. 谢谢。Terima kasih. Nandri.

Footnote
  1. The Pantun is translated as follows:

    Should we carry a chest,
    Fill it up with as many things;
    Should we unite as one,
    Challenging tasks will become effortless.