Rethinking our mother tongue education

Mr.Irai Anbu said, “To know a language, one should understand the culture of the people speaking it. Language isn’t just based on letters, it is about the people and their emotions.”

N. Subramaniam, chief instructor for Tamil Learning from the Ministry of Education, Singapore, said, “Many students question the relevance of learning their mother tongue with respect to Tamil. We believe that it is important for their development and we tell language teachers to encourage them to master it.”


Not just Tamil, we reckon, as this is probably a longstanding issue regarding mother tongue education in Singapore. While I am not ashamed to admit that it has been years since I last had my Chinese class, it sure looks like the methodology has not evolved much. It was only years after, on my first trip to China when I was in university, that I discovered the relevance of learning my mother tongue and subsequently became more interested in speaking better Mandarin. It was better late than never yet we question if this interest should not have been sparked earlier in our primary and secondary school mother tongue classes.

What can our schools and teachers do more to revive students’ interest in their mother tongue? Is it possible for children to master their mother tongue without turning to rote learning? Mother tongue education might never become a fun process, whether or not memorization is involved, but we believe more can be done to spark our children’s interest. Perhaps we can start by intertwining lessons on Singapore’s history and its forefathers with mother tongue classes. Let us know what you think.

School’s out

With the school holidays almost upon us, here’s a fun video that might inspire you to hone your child’s description skills to ace that PSLE English oral exam for that next outing to the museums. If you need any ideas, here are two exhibitions worth checking out before the year is over – it’s never too early for your little ones to enjoy art!

Haegue Yang: Honesty Printed on Modesty, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, runs through 23 November 2013

People and Places, Singapore Art Museum, runs through 31 December 2013