Schools get free digital access to SMT's vernacular news with $15m donation from Ngee Ann Kongsi, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Schools get free digital access to SMT's vernacular news with $15m donation from Ngee Ann Kongsi

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All secondary school students will get free digital access to Lianhe Zaobao, Berita Harian and Tamil Murasu newspapers and other content for mother tongue language-learning for five years.

About 143,000 secondary school students across 136 secondary schools here will benefit from the new "News At Your Fingertips" programme.

It will start in April and will run until 2027, and is funded by a $15 million donation from charity foundation Ngee Ann Kongsi, said the Ministry of Education (MOE), SPH Media Trust (SMT) and Ngee Ann Kongsi in a joint statement on Friday (March 25).

It will also cover digital access to these titles for all mother tongue teachers in Singapore's primary and secondary schools as well as the junior colleges and Millennia Institute for teachers to use as resources in classrooms.

Access will be given once every two weeks during the school term for all titles, the statement said.

Students studying the Chinese language will receive a digital account which they can use to access the Chinese-language daily's e-paper and its student publication zbCOMMA, while students learning Malay will get access to Berita Harian's e-paper and student supplement Generasi Gelia.

Tamil-language students will get Tamil Murasu's e-paper as well as content targeted at students like Illayar Murasu, a column covering teen issues and human-interest stories.

SMT is the holding company of SPH Media Group, which publishes all three titles.

The partnership was inked on Friday by MOE's director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong, Ngee Ann Kongsi vice-president and chairman of the donation and charity sub-committee Jamie Teo, and SMT chief executive Teo Lay Lim at a ceremony at Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School in Yishun.

Ngee Ann Kongsi president James Teo said his organisation firmly believes in empowerment through education, and hopes the new programme will help students understand important issues in Singapore's vernacular languages.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who witnessed the signing of the agreement, said in a speech that bilingualism is a cornerstone of Singapore's society and his ministry wants to make language-learning exciting and current.

He added that students are now exposed to a myriad of information online and guiding them to be discerning is an important part of education.

"Having ready access to credible digital news sources through this collaboration will broaden students' perspectives on trending issues of the day and sharpen their acumen on current events," he said.

SMT chairman Khaw Boon Wan said the organisation is working with community partners to promote news and media literacy, especially among students and youths.

"Embedded in this effort is our support for the Government and the community in promoting mother tongue languages and in supporting their daily usage.

"Against the larger English-speaking environment, our mother tongue languages must remain alive and relevant," he said, adding that SMT would step up its role in the effort to preserve them.

Mr Khaw noted that keeping vernacular languages alive is an important political and economic imperative, given Singapore's multi-racial and multilingual heritage and its location in Asia.

To this end, SMT will enhance its student publications by producing content that students will find engaging and interesting and will strengthen its presence on social media platforms such as Instagram, Telegram and TikTok, he said.