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TLF 2019 – Interview with Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten, Singapore

Today we speak with the preschool Tamil teachers of Sarada Kindergarten (Ramakrishna Mission) – Mrs Eswari, Mrs Lakshmi and Mrs Rama. They share their thoughts with us on the state of preschool level Tamil today and how parents can help make the learning of Tamil easier for little ones.

Tell us about Sarada Kindergarten’s take on Mother Tongue. What makes your programme special?

We wouldn’t call it a rigorous curriculum but we do have some features of this approach in our own curriculum – Child-Focused Curriculum. We have a pre-designed curriculum that covers the core content (listening, speaking, reading and writing). However, we take cues from children’s interest and wonderings and plan activities that engage the children holistically. By this way, we nurture the love and    proficiency of Tamil language in our children – that makes the programme special.

What are your views on the state of Tamil at the preschool level in Singapore todayAre parents taking preschool Tamil seriously?

Tamil is sometimes viewed as a difficult language to master and some think it serves little purpose and therefore it is often neglected in preschool teaching and learning. But we believe the tide is turning and the preschool fraternity is working towards making Tamil an important and purposeful language. It really depends on the parents. Their beliefs, values, practices and priority plays an important part.  

Has the responsibility of teaching Tamil fallen onto the shoulders of schools and tuition centres as opposed to having a primary base at home?

Generally, it does seem so, as parents do see teachers as professionals and as experts who are trained to teach the language. However, parents do not have to ‘teach’ the language at home but rather should focus on engaging children to converse in Tamil on a daily basis. We believe that speaking Tamil has to start at home.

What are the challenges that children face when they enter the primary stream without a foundation in their mother tongue?

Sometimes they have challenges in understanding instructions in Tamil and thus may struggle to carry out or complete the given task. Some may have difficulty in speaking the language and may not be able to convey their thoughts.

There is a general mind set among parent that English is easier and more fun to learn/teach than Tamil. Is this true and how can this mind set be changed?

Yes, it is true that many parents think that English is easier. But any language will become easy if it is utilized in our everyday lives. This mindset can be changed with more awareness and support for parents.

What are the top 3 things that can be changed in the home environment that will make a significant difference in how a child learns and perceives Tamil?

  • Parents being conversant in Tamil
  • Bed time stories in Tamil
  • Exposure to Tamil picture story books and educational programmes for kids

For families who have not currently enrolled their kids in a preschool Tamil programme, what can they do to help their children at home?

Converse with them in Tamil as much as possible. In this case, parents will have to take on the role of a ‘teacher’ and teach their children the basic letters/words at home which will be helpful for the children in their primary school.

How can Tamil be made fun for both the child and the caregiver? Does the school have any tips that caregivers can follow at home?

Games will be a fun way to teach a language. Hence, caregivers can try some fun games such as hide & seek where the child and the caregiver get an opportunity to converse in Tamil, about places, directions etc., What is the time, Mr Wolf? (they learn numbers), Memory games, etc. Encourage children to participate in Tamil activities organized by CCs, STLF (Singapore Tamil Language Festival) will help too. Involve and engage children in our festivals at home and outside so that they will learn to appreciate our rich culture and language.

All images from this post are from the story Meera & Ameera, illustrated by Lavanya Naidu, authored by Nimmy Chacko, published by Pratham Books on StoryWeaver in 2018. Click to view.

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