Teachers get creative to spark interest in mother tongue languages
Getting his students to cultivate a love for the Malay language involved imparting some lessons in Malay traditions.
Mr Mohamed Fazil Aris, 51, a senior Malay language teacher at Woodlands Secondary School, said Secondary 3 students have to learn to play the angklung, an Indonesian musical instrument, and wrap nasi lemak in banana leaves among other activities. They then man booths during the school's cultural camp and teach younger students about Malay traditions.
Similar innovative practices were showcased at the Mother Tongue Languages Symposium on Saturday.
The symposium, which is in its 10th year, included more than 40 digital exhibits featuring efforts from pre-school to pre-university.
This year's theme, Our Mother Tongues as Living Languages, encourages students to apply mother tongue languages in everyday situations.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made the teachers' efforts to promote mother tongue languages challenging.
Mr Fazil, for instance, has not been able to hold the school's Malay Cultural and Festive Camp since last year, after holding it every year since 2014.
"Now, the activity has been changed to getting students to research and present in class," he said
Other teachers had to adjust their initiatives too. Mr M. Gnanasekaran, 61, a senior Tamil language teacher at Woodlands Secondary School, got students to make videos about their family or hobbies last year.
"By making the videos, I see students bonding with family and gaining more confidence in speaking Tamil," he said.
Ms Wong Min Wei, 35, a Chinese language teacher at Fuhua Primary School, said: "Covid-19 has brought forth many challenges but it has also allowed teachers to explore other pedagogical approaches that will better engage our students."
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered the symposium's opening address. He said over the years, the value of bilingualism has increased many fold and allowed Singapore to ride on Asia's growth and globalisation. But there have been other unexpected benefits.
He said: "Early studies have shown that bilingualism is associated with greater mental agility and creative ability, and may even protect against dementia."