[lg policy] Singapore: Call for new ways of teaching Tamil

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Mon Feb 15 18:27:52 UTC 2010

Call for new ways of teaching Tamil

IN 1982, three in 10 Primary 1 pupils studying Tamil came from
English-speaking homes. That figure has doubled to six in 10
today.This means there may be a need for a fundamental shift in the
manner in which Tamil is taught in schools, said Senior Minister of
State for Education S. Iswaran at the Tamil Language Coordinators'
Meeting yesterday.
He said: 'These students have limited exposure to Tamil before they
enter school and would also have limited opportunities to use Tamil in
their homes.' These are the same problems faced by the
Chinese-speaking community, which has led to the ongoing review of
Chinese-language instruction in schools. As with changes in the
teaching of Chinese, Mr Iswaran called for increased emphasis on
developing oral skills and finding innovative teaching methods for
Tamil learning and instruction.

'When we teach Tamil as our 'mother tongue', we expect the students to
have opportunities to speak it and be connected to the culture, but
that may not be the case any more,' he said in his Tamil address. 'You
can't tell students that they can't speak English. It is very
important now in this new age, so they need to speak both languages,
but how? That's the problem.' He said there was more responsibility on
the part of Tamil teachers to create opportunities in the classroom
that students do not have at home. To further boost the study of
Tamil, the Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre (UPTLC), which has
traditionally played the role of a national resource and teaching
centre for students, will now also serve as a professional development
centre for Tamil-language teachers.

'UPTLC will provide training programmes in curriculum, pedagogy,
assessment and the use of ICT (information and communication
technology) as well as mentorship programmes for new teachers and
senior teachers,' said Mr Iswaran. Current training opportunities for
Tamil teachers are very limited, said Mr T. Venugopal, head of the
Tamil language unit at the Ministry of Education. 'We are constantly
relooking the curriculum, but Tamil language teaching methods must
also change to be more appropriate to the changing profile of Tamil
students,' he said.

Jennani Durai


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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