TAMIL IS GIVEN LESS IMPORTANCE IN COMPARISON TO HINDI IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS

I have recently raised my concern’s on the availability of Tamil Language in my neighbouring estate for my child who is attending Primary School next year (enrolment starts July this year) with MOE, Mr. Heng Swee Keat (whom never bothered replying) and the school involved but the reply from MOE was rather unsatisfactory. Below is the exchange of our emails:

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Dear Mr. Heng Swee Keat,

The below was posted on your Facebook wall with MOE and North Vista Primary School tagged on the post last Friday, but to date I have yet to receive any response/reply from you or the relevant organizations involved – not even a ‘we will look into it’ reply.

I have also copied the post to Mr. Lee Hsien Loong via Private Message on Facebook and have also carbon copied him on this email.

This is rather frustrating and disappointing as I don’t understand why I have to chase for a reply when I believe the staff’s from MOE and yourself are dedicated to look into matters of such!

I have copied the post with this email just in case you have no clue to what I’m writing about:

I am writing to express my concern on the Government Primary School’s policies and structure. I am a resident of Compassvale link and have a daughter who will be attending Primary 1 next year. Like any other parent, I would like my daughter to attend a school which is just a walk away from our Block (North Vista Primary School, Singapore) and therefore called to make some enquiries with the School. I was told that the Tamil Language was not available in that particular school but the language Hindi was being taught by a freelance teacher – when asked why, I was referred to MOE to clear my doubts.

A staff from MOE by the name of Jennifer ONG-LEONG sent me an email reply which is as follows:

‘MOE regularly reviews TL instruction in our schools based on the teaching resources available, and to ensure there is a critical mass of TL students to optimise TL learning. North Vista Primary will not be offering TL instruction in 2014 as we project that there is insufficient critical mass of TL students to optimise learning. In addition, there are available TL schools nearby which help to ensure a critical mass of TL students for optimal TL learning in these schools’.

She also provided me with a list of other options/alternatives on Schools further away from where I reside but with the availability of the Tamil Language.

Now the above email does not clarify my doubts nor does it answer my questions and I am not seeking for alternatives from your staffs as I don’t see why my daughter should be inconvenienced to travel to other neighbourhood schools when we already have one minutes away from where I stay. How does MOE decide if there is insufficient critical mass of TL students when there is no option given to the Hindu residences around the area in the first place? Whatever happened to PAP’s preaching on racial integration? Are you telling
me that the number of Hindi students are higher in number than the TL students around my residential area?

Link to Post: https://www.facebook.com/hengsweekeat/posts/644710468900815

Smitha Prabhakaran

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Reply from MOE

Dear Ms Smitha,

1. I refer to your Facebook messages and email to the Ministry of Education (MOE), Minister for Education, Mr Heng Swee Keat, and Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, between 3 and 8 Jan 2014, regarding the provision of Tamil Language (TL) in North Vista Primary. Your messages and email have been referred to us for consideration and reply.

2. As shared earlier in our emails to you on the 28 March and 22 May 2013, MOE remains committed to ensure that Tamil students have sufficient number of schools which they can choose to attend where Tamil is offered as a Mother Tongue Language. As language competency is shaped by interactivity and use in daily life, a critical mass of TL students in a school will be needed to provide a richer TL learning environment for students to interact and practice the language with one another. It is not educationally desirable for a primary school to offer Tamil lessons if it will have very few TL students. We would like to assure you that the offering of TL instruction in schools is determined after careful consideration of the projected demand from Tamil students staying in the vicinity, ensuring sufficient nearby primary schools offering the TL instruction, and the availability of TL teachers.

3. Over the last few years, MOE has started TL instruction in more primary schools, and we would like to seek your patience and understanding as we continue to do so for more schools in the next few years. The detailed list of primary schools and updated information on whether they are offering TL instruction will be made available by June 2014 in MOE website and through the kindergartens. You may wish to refer to the list to prepare for your child’s registration in the 2014 Primary One Registration Exercise.

4. Once again, we thank you for writing in to us and we look forward to welcome your child into our school.

Warm regards,

Ms Loh Ngiap Fang

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I was given options on 10 neighbourhood schools with the availability of the Tamil Language. When I called up one of the schools, I was told that the school strictly follows the 1km distance for enrolment and we definitely do not fall within the 1km range. So why provide me a list of options when there are restrictions in those options as well? Am I not supposed to have any preference on deciding my child’s school? Is this an issue minorities have to face in this country? MOE has yet to come back with an sensible reply and they have completely avoided the questions I’ve asked them on (How does MOE decide if there is insufficient critical mass of TL students when there is no option given to the Hindu residences around the area in the first place? Whatever happened to PAP’s preaching on racial integration? Are you telling me that the number of Hindi students are higher in number than the TL students around my residential area?). Her reply which states “a critical mass of TL students in a school will be needed to provide a richer TL learning environment for students to interact and practice the language with one another” is utter rubbish!!

Smitha

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