The mother tongue is crucial in multicultural, multiracial Singa-pore and it helps Singaporeans to stay connected to their heritage. This, in turn, highlights the importance of mother tongue-language teachers, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.
Speaking at the annual Arif Budiman Malay Language Teacher Award ceremony, he congratulated the five recipients and thanked them for their contribution and dedication in teaching the Malay Language.
"Building a strong foundation in mother tongue languages starts from young. Our educators play a key role to nurture the love of languages in our students," he said.
"The preservation of our cultures, values, Asian heritage and sense of identity in our students is best delivered through our mother tongue languages."
Mr Heng, who was previously the Education Minister, also noted that giving children a strong foundation in their mother tongue was one of the "best gifts we can give them in life".
He added: "Not only will it give them an advantage in life, it also enables them to be culturally sensitive and connect with the world."
Also present at the awards ceremony was Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who is Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and chairman of the Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee.
Mr Heng said that while English is a critical part of nation-building as it provides a common platform for all races to interact, mother tongues "help us to stay connected to the heritage of our various ethnic groups, and anchors our identity".
Hence, the work of mother tongue-language teachers cannot be "over-stated", he added.
"Beyond being a tool for business communication, languages also help us to more deeply understand the culture of different people and races," said Mr Heng.
Since the Arif Budiman Malay Language Teacher Award was started in 2007, the award has been given to 50 Malay-language teachers in primary and secondary schools, centralised institutes and junior colleges.
This year, the five teachers honoured are Mr Roslie Buang Sidek (Fernvale Primary School), Mr Mohamad Zareen Mohamed Shariff (Loyang Primary School) and Madam Rita Zarina Mohd Nazeer (Marsiling Secondary School) in the role model category, and Mr Amirul Asri Hussin (Evergreen Primary School) and Madam Khairyanie Kamsani (Gan Eng Seng Primary School) in the motivation category.