$3 million boost for the teaching of mother tongue languages in pre-school

A new certification course in mother tongue language teaching will be launched next year to enhance pre-school teachers' spoken language skills and their knowledge about related culture and heritage.
A new certification course in mother tongue language teaching will be launched next year to enhance pre-school teachers' spoken language skills and their knowledge about related culture and heritage.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

SINGAPORE - To beef up the teaching of mother tongue languages in pre-schools, up to $3 million has been set aside by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to develop teaching resources and encourage teachers to go for training.

A new certification course in mother tongue language teaching will also be launched next year to enhance pre-school teachers' spoken language skills and their knowledge about related culture and heritage. The course is introduced by ECDA and the National Institute of Early Childhood Development.

Pre-school teachers will get a training bonus of $2,000 if they complete the course over the next two years and go on to teach the language.

An ECDA spokesman said the course will target Malay and Tamil language teachers for a start, as there are already courses for Chinese language teachers such as the Diploma in Chinese Studies offered by Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

ECDA will consider a similar Chinese course in time to come.

Announcing these moves on Friday (Oct 5) at the annual Early Childhood Conference 2018 held at Suntec City, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said: "The early years are a golden opportunity to plant the seeds of love for the mother tongue and to lay a strong foundation for bilingual learning."

The conference is organised annually by ECDA to help professionals and parents keep abreast of current trends and share best practices in early childhood development.

Ms Nurhidayah Dorahman, 22, a Malay language teacher at a PCF Sparkletots pre-school in Sembawang, said she would have wanted to go for the course even before Mr Lee's announcement about the training bonus.

She said: "Mother tongue was my favourite subject since primary school, so I want to inculcate a love for it in children. I believe this new course is a good platform to sharpen my skills."

Ms Kogilavani Shanmugam, 42, a Tamil language teacher at Khalsa Kindergarten, added: "I'm happy and excited about this course, we didn't have much of these kinds of opportunities before."

She added she was looking forward to learning how to teach the Tamil language in a more meaningful and relatable way.

ECDA is also working with the Ministry of Education and early childhood practitioners to develop language resources in Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

These resources could include learning materials such as books and games tailored to a Singaporean context. They will be piloted at selected pre-schools next year and extended to other pre-schools in 2020.

Mr Victor Bay, chief executive of PCF, the largest operator of pre-schools in Singapore, said: "Learning mother tongue languages has always been a key part of our curriculum... We are glad that there are greater opportunities for teachers to continue to upgrade their skills with even stronger support at every stage of their teaching journey."

At the event, Mr Lee also said that from this month, early childhood educators and their work will be featured on social media, cinema advertisements and traditional media such as television and MRT stations.

This is part of a three-year national campaign called Shape Our Tomorrow that aims to raise the profile of the early childhood profession and attract more teachers.

Mr Lee added that strengthening mother tongue language teaching "is only the beginning".

"Going forward, we want to build a community of early childhood leaders of varied expertise, and broaden the leadership pathways to include specialists who aspire to contribute in a particular area of expertise," he said.