Super Cool way to promote bilingualism

Primary 2 pupils from Princess Elizabeth Primary School studying during their mother tongue class on Jan 3, 2017.
Primary 2 pupils from Princess Elizabeth Primary School studying during their mother tongue class on Jan 3, 2017. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng with Princess Elizabeth Primary pupils (left) Ginny Lau and Lin Jin Tian at a Chinese language class on Jan 3, 2017.
Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng with Princess Elizabeth Primary pupils (left) Ginny Lau and Lin Jin Tian at a Chinese language class on Jan 3, 2017. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng attending a Malay language class at Princess Elizabeth Primary on Jan 3, 2017.
Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng attending a Malay language class at Princess Elizabeth Primary on Jan 3, 2017. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

S'pore superhero's adventures one of 10 new proposals to receive grants from LKY fund

Superheroes can sometimes go where others fear to tread, so one production company is creating a Singaporean hero with special powers who can teach children fun facts about the nation, such as its Olympic dreams.

Through the adventures of caped protagonist Super Cool, who will make his debut by June, kids can also improve their language skills when they watch Web episodes of the show, available in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.

A five-minute pilot of Super Cool by Hoods Inc Productions is one of 10 new proposals which have received grants from the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism, the Ministry of Education announced yesterday. Other projects to promote the learning of English and mother tongue among children include an online video series by former TV host Diana Ser; and the translation of English picture books into Chinese, Malay and Tamil by publisher Epigram Books.

They bring the total number of proposals the fund has supported to 45, with $10.3 million awarded. The fund was launched in 2011 by the late prime minister and, to date, it has received over 220 proposals.

Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said the fund will "continue to enhance the pool of locally developed and culturally relevant resources that support bilingual teaching and learning".

Mr Ng, the fund's chairman, said: "Bilingualism is the cornerstone of our education system, so learning mother tongue is important for the kids, not only for their long-term future... (it) is also a window for them to learn about their roots, their identity."

Yesterday, the fund also launched a call for proposals to develop a graded reading series for children aged between five and 10. The books should be set in the Singapore context that will allow kids to better relate to the story, it said.

The fund's programme director, Ms Cheryl Tan, said the series will help students build "confidence and language skill-sets over time".

Ms Nursyafiqah Mohamed Ramlee, 27, a Malay-language teacher at the MOE Kindergarten @ Farrer Park, has used bilingual books previously sponsored by the fund. One of them, Makan Time!, a picture book launched in 2013 - a tale about a girl who discovers local delicacies with her grandfather - is easily identifiable with kids here.

Ms Nursyafiqah said: "It's suitable for our children, with a local flavour. Most of our children are inclined to use English, so when they read the English words, they will also try to read the Malay ones."

Additional reporting by Toh Wen Li

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2017, with the headline 'Super Cool way to promote bilingualism'. Print Edition | Subscribe