The Straits Times
Published on Nov 28, 2012

Taking Hindi to the next local level


A FORMAL Hindi education in Singapore has thrived for some 20 years ("Govt should take over teaching of Hindi" by Mr Shriniwas Rai; Nov 17).

Thanks to the invaluable time, labour and career sacrifices made by hundreds of dedicated teacher volunteers and the few community leaders, the teaching of Hindi has flourished and grown from strength to strength, and without a cent of direct funding from the Government for over 15 years.

Government support has been invaluably rendered instead in the form of facilities in Ministry of Education (MOE) schools made readily available at almost zero cost to all community groups, including the Hindi-speaking community.

Indeed, today, there are 5,000 or so students learning Hindi as a mother tongue in over 100 MOE schools and 10 centres. School fees have risen only marginally since the inception. Almost all needy children who apply are granted fee remission.

Such increasing numbers make it imperative for the Government to step in to ensure that volunteers and students are motivated, lessons are properly imparted and assets including funds are properly administered.

Students and volunteers must be properly managed and the Government should not shy away from taking strong measures to safeguard the financial and long-term interests of these communities.

The Government should take over the teaching of Hindi from the community groups, especially where community groups are unable to plan ahead, to cope with the challenges of running these Hindi education programmes effectively and to meet the ever-rising expectations of students, parents and teachers.

While additional government funding is always welcome, community groups must play their part too in ensuring that the funds raised from student fees, the reserves built over the past two decades and the government grants over the past four years or so, are applied prudently in the short- and long-term interests of the students and the teacher volunteers.

Such scant resources must not be squandered in dubious or short-sighted investments which do not alleviate the plight of the needy or translate into tangible benefits to the students and teacher volunteers.

The Board for the Teaching and Testing of South Asian Languages deserves commendation for training teachers, maintaining exam standards and ensuring that the contents of Hindi textbooks and teaching materials are kept similar, if not equivalent, to the materials of all the other non-Tamil Indian community groups. Such parity must be maintained to ensure fairness to all.

Vijay Kumar Rai