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Proceedings of the Redesigning Pedagogy: Culture, Knowledge and Understanding Conference, Singapore, May 2007


Presenters MR KALAIMANI S/O RETNASAMY (Millennia Institute) [email protected]

MRS SIVAGOURI KALIAMOORTHY (Greenwood Primary School) [email protected]


This paper intends to document the chronological development of ICT in Tamil Language education in Singapore. Since 1987, Tamil language teachers have been using computers in their work. Over the past 25 years, teaching and learning through ICT has evolved tremendously from the basic DOS software to the wireless network of the World Wide Web. This study is a pioneering effort as these developments have yet to be properly evaluated or documented.


As the learning of the Mother Tongue is compulsory, the Singapore government has always been supportive of teachers adopting new initiatives in the pedagogy of Tamil language. MOE has pioneered many Tamil language educational CD-ROMs. It has, in fact, developed more than fifteen educational Tamil language multimedia CD-ROMs. MOE has spent millions of dollars in these initiatives and has created varied platforms to encourage ICT in Tamil language teaching.

Tamil language teachers have incorporated the ever progressing ICT in computing and have tailored them to meet their classroom needs. Singapore Tamil language teachers have pioneered various IT strategies using different software. The main author has been in the Tamil ICT field for the past twenty five years and the main objective of the research study is to outline the chronological development of ICT in Tamil Language based on his experience. It is hoped that this pioneering documentation of the development of ICT in Tamil language education in Singapore will be beneficial in future research.

1980 ­1986 Personal computing came to Singapore at the advent of the eighties. During that period only a handful of enthusiastic Tamil youths from the Peoples Association and the NUS were involved in experimenting Tamil with personal computers. They successfully demonstrated DTP publishing in Tamil and even some Tamil programs such as 'Pallanguzhi" in an exhibition held in conjunction with Singapore's 150th Anniversary Celebrations. Their early efforts, though commendable, were isolated. Personal computers were still expensive and out of the reach of common Tamil folk who saw no purpose in getting a PC in their homes. Most


of the computer users were busy learning the technical intricacies of computers rather than the application of computers for anything else.

1987 ­ 1993 The real revolution took place in 1987 when 'Barathi' ­ a DOS based Tamil word processor, was introduced to Singaporeans. Suddenly, they, especially the Tamil teachers, had a reason to invest in a personal computer. Even though Barathi's display and printout were crude by today's standards, some pioneering Tamil teachers started to use the program to type out their classroom worksheets and even their examination papers. In the same year, another innovative and superior Tamil word processor, Thunaivan, appeared. Murasu, still another word processor came to the market and Tamil teachers were stumped for choice. In the following year (24 Jan 1988), the first ever IT seminar was held at the National Institute of Education. More than 240 Tamil teachers attended the seminar. Developers from Murasu, Thunaivan and Barathi demonstrated their software and how teachers could apply them in their daily typing and printing purposes. NIE lecturers presented papers on word processing in computers and how to apply it to the teaching of Tamil language. This groundbreaking seminar exposed the potential of computers to the teaching and learning of Tamil to the teachers

Formal computer training started at the NIE in 1988. Keyboarding was a basic necessity for any computer work and Tamil teachers received formal training on Tamil keyboarding skills. Mr. Ravindran (of Thunaivan software) did some research on the phonemic structure of the Tamil alphabets and devised another interpretation of the Tamil keyboard which he called the 'Phonetic keyboard'. Mr. Naa. Govindasamy of NIE did a similar study and formulated another interpretation of the phonetic keyboard. His research paper was read at a world


conference on "Computers and Teaching Tamil" held in Mauritius in Dec 1989. A typing tutor for this method of typing was developed by Murasu, and all Tamil teachers received training at the NIE as part of their in-service courses. Even the Singapore Tamil Teachers Union made special effort in conducting IT courses for the Tamil language teachers.

By 1991 'Venus DTP' ­ a much-refined version of Barathi was released and the MOE made provision for all schools to get a copy for the Tamil teachers. Even though Venus DTP cost $800 at that time, many Tamil language teachers bought a personal copy for themselves. By now, the Curriculum Planning and Development Branch, the Testing and Examinations Branch, the NIE and most of the schools were using word processing for most of their needs. Typewriters started to disappear from the scene. Multimedia was still at the drawing board but a few Tamil teachers created innovative teaching strategies using just the word processor for all their CAI.

The lecturers at the NIE did many studies on computer-based education and various types of approaches to language education and published their work in many seminars, workshops and publications.

1994 - 1997 When Windows© 3.1 rolled out in 1993, things started to change. The GUI style, the mouse, and the availability of various types of commercial software put the Tamil teachers on a faster track. Tharagai© Software released the first Tamil fonts for Windows in Jan 1994. Teachers could now use many of the so-called "English software" using Tamil fonts. DTP such as greeting cards, posters, calendars etc could now be designed in Tamil. Many software were available for teachers to author their own teaching materials. Though the NIE still


continued with keyboarding skills, trainees and regular Tamil teachers were exposed to innovative CAI ideas. Although PowerPoint was available since 1990, it was only now that it was started to be used by Tamil teachers in their classrooms.

In 1996 when the fledgling Internet were getting popular, a group of Tamil teachers under the guidance of Mr. Naa Govindasamy of NIE, set up a site full of Tamil pupils' essays, grammar exercises and even a few basic interactive activities. National Institute of Education successfully initiated and implemented a Web Based Tamil Instruction Project and demonstrated how Tamil became the first Indian language to go on the Internet with the launch of its website "Web Assisted Learning and Teaching of Tamil"1.

Some Tamil teachers hosted Tamil pages in their school websites. But all these endeavors were mainly done by certain motivated individuals from the schools. The mainstream Tamil teachers were still into just basic word processing.

1997 ­2001 In April 1997, the MOE released the Masterplan for IT in Education2 as the initiative to prepare our pupils for the challenges of the 21st century. This plan added the much needed impetus to IT usage of Tamil teachers. Teachers were required into absorbing computer usage as part of their work as 30% of the curriculum time was to be based on IT. Many in-service courses were conducted by MOE to introduce ICT to TL teachers. The success of the plan can be seen clearly in the extensive use of IT by teachers and by the recognition that

1 (now defunct)



Singapore teachers (especially Tamil teachers) are the most computer savvy in various international Tamil IT conferences.

The underlying philosophy of the Masterplan was that education should continually anticipate the future needs of society, and work towards fulfilling those needs. The skills required for the future will centre on thinking skills, learning skills and communication skills. IT-based teaching and learning will be one of our key strategies for equipping our young with these skills.

The Masterplan also sought to provide a broader base of access to IT among our young so as to achieve a leveling up in learning opportunities. Every child would be able to enhance his learning through an IT-enriched curriculum and school environment. The Masterplan envisaged IT being introduced in all subjects, as software consistent with curricula objectives becomes available. While the primary purpose was to enhance pupils' attainment of conceptual knowledge and thinking skills in the context of the subject curriculum, pupils were also expected to acquire specific IT skills at each stage, from primary school upward. By the time they left secondary school, they would have acquired minimum competencies in desktop publishing, spreadsheet and database construction, and in sourcing of information from CD-ROMs and on-line resources.

The Masterplan set out strategies for acquiring and developing a range of software relevant to our curricula objectives. MOE provided a central clearing-house service to source, review and recommend software titles (the Recommended Software List) and Internet sites for schools. Schools had the autonomy in deciding on the software they should acquire.


The Masterplan envisaged the Internet becoming a key content and learning resource in schools with its increasingly vast amount of information relevant to education. School-wide networks enabled the Internet becoming the medium for communication, collaboration and sharing of ideas and resources between pupils and teachers locally and with schools abroad. The software industry and MOE were actively involved in developing and offering content and related services - e.g. developing CD-ROMs and materials for the DMRs (Digital Media Repositories), identifying and mirroring relevant Internet sites, and sourcing off-the-shelf software from abroad. Software distributors were also encouraged to provide value-added services to schools, such as proactive sourcing of educational software to match their needs and provision of after-sales technical support. Times Publishing, a leading local publisher released a series of multilingual (including Tamil) educational CD-ROMs entitled "Asian Folktales". Two local Tamil publishing firms released an educational CD-ROM each for Singaporean schools (Kullaai Viyaabaaritum Kurangum & Abinayaavin Roovi). The development and commercialization of a full range of educational software relevant to our local curriculum was a critical component of the Masterplan. Under the plan MOE developed and released to schools interactive Tamil multimedia educational CD-ROM. 1. Minmini Ulagam for Primary 4 ­ This was an interactive multimedia CD-ROM. It aimed to enhance the teaching and learning of Civics and Moral Education. The animated stories, interactive activities and games were designed to teach moral values, promote thinking skills and inculcate National Education values. It is considered as the first Tamil multimedia educational CD-ROM in the world, based on Civics & Moral education curriculum. 2. Sudaroli Cholai Series - A set of 5 Tamil language educational CD-ROMs to teach Tamil language from primary one to six. These CD-ROMs were designed to enhance the teaching and learning of Tamil Language, based on the Valar Tamil syllabus (1998).


Sudoroli Cholai Series Mugaamil Moondru Naal (Pri.1) Yaaro! Ivar Yaaro! ( Pri. 1, 2 & 3) Ulagam Sutrum Joo Joo(Pri. 2 & 3) Mayanin Maligai (Pri. 3 & 4) Chakra (Pri.5 & 6)

Year released 1998 1998 2000 2000 2001

In 1997 EDB and NCB attracted established global software houses to set up local operations, and form tripartite partnership tie-ups and consortia with local multimedia developers under the Local Industry Upgrading Programme (LIUP). NCB also helped to develop the base of talent required to produce educational software. MOE provided the directions and specifications to ensure that the content developed was relevant to our curriculum. Two Tamil Language educational CD-ROMs for secondary schools were codeveloped under this scheme. 1. Tamil ­ Kalaiyum Panpaadum (MOE, NIIT (India), iT21 Pte. Ltd.) 2. Maayath Theevu (MOE, PentaFour (India), Connect! Pte. Ltd.)

The National Institute of Education aligned its teacher training programmes to ensure that all graduating students have core skills in teaching with IT resources. This required the effective infusion of IT into the NIE's own curricula, the training of all academic staff such that they become role models in the use of IT for teaching, and providing ready access to IT tools and related resources for all trainee teachers. The NIE plays a leading role in research in the application of IT to education, and had introduced new postgraduate courses on IT applications in education.


Tamil teachers had been getting training in PowerPoint, Web Page designing and various IT strategies in classroom teaching from MOE and NIE. IN 2001, the Tamil unit in NIE started a new multimedia program for its Tamil Language trainees whereby they learnt how to design and author educational software. Using authoring tools, Tamil language trainee teachers developed educational software, customized to teach various components of the Tamil language. Tamil language teachers were now generally seen as IT savvy.

In 2001 the Ministry of Education (MOE) launched Nam Naadi3 to help primary school Tamil language students to sharpen their language skills. It has since been providing a variety of meaningful, interesting and fun-filled internet resources to enhance the teaching and learning of the Tamil language, culture and general knowledge. Nam Naadi means "pulse", and at that time, it filled an education gap for insufficient internet resources for students of Tamil language.

Apart from CD ROMs MOE also released a set of Audio CDs4 and Video5 VCDs to augment the TL teachers teaching tools.

2002 - 2004 In 2002, MOE replaced the "Valar Tamil" Primary Tamil Language syllabus (1998) with the newly developed Arumbu Primary Tamil Language Syllabus (2002). With that there was a need to replace the Sudaroli Cholai series with a new series of CD-ROMs. MOE realized that Tamil teachers found difficulty in using the Sudaroli Cholai series of CD ROMs in the Tamil language classes as its usage had not been factored into the Valar Tamil


4 5


(1998) curriculum time. Only a few teachers adequately used the series, even that, as enrichment activities. Therefore the usage of the new set of interactive CD-ROM series developed for the Arumbu syllabus was featured into the curriculum time itself and complements the new syllabus. This new series was entitled Arumbuku Virunthu and four series from primary one to four has been developed between 2002 and 2004. The corresponding series for the new secondary school syllabus is called Vanavil and three titles have been developed for secondary one, two and three. The Arumbu series 6 and Vanavil 46 will be interactive and web-based. They will soon be launched in 2007. The structure of the web based programme will follow the exam model of PSLE (2006) and GCE'O' level respectively. In addition to these local multimedia CD ROMs developed by MOE, there are other imported Tamil educational multimedia CD ROMs such as Tamilbook 2000 (developed in the USA) and Senthamil (developed in India for a Singapore firm).

The Second Masterplan for IT in Education The Masterplan II was launched by Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry & Education on 24 July 2002. According to the MOE, Masterplan II will consolidate and build on the achievements of the first Masterplan, and provide the overall direction on how MOE could harness the possibilities offered by IT for learning. IT will be leveraged on as a powerful enabler to enhance teaching and learning processes. Schools will be empowered to experiment, contextualize and integrate the use of IT to enhance school processes. The Masterplan II adopts a systemic and holistic approach. All the key pieces - curriculum, assessment, instruction, professional development, and culture of the school are integrated and addressed. The approach calls for the involvement of the major



stakeholders in education and emphasizes that they work together to tap the potential of IT. The Arumbu audio series for P1 to P6 complements the Arumbuku Virunthu series P1 to P6 and the Vanavil audio series had a series for secondary one to four. The special features of these ICT model is that they can also be used for Normal Technical classes.


With the rising popularity of broadband and growing demand to meet the teaching and

learning needs of teachers and pupils in 2005 the Educational Technology Division (ETD) of the MOE has put up Interactive Resources8 (IRs) for teaching and learning in schools. Each web-based IR is a standalone modular resource that can be reused and customized to meet the needs of teachers and pupils. Web is chosen as a medium of delivery as well as a medium of instruction for this project with the purpose that Web can provide a more flexible learning environment which is not possible via traditional classroom instruction.

MOE had also developed customized software tools for teachers, and workshops are conducted using these tools such as MCQ builders, MCQ Cloze Builder and also Using Flash application to Creating Interactive Resources.

'Nam Naadi' which was launched in 12 May 2001 and was enhanced is a Tamil Language website for children aged 10 to 12 years. It provides a variety of meaningful, interesting and fun-filled internet resources to enhance the teaching and learning of the Tamil language, culture and general knowledge. There are five sections, each with a different focus. The users are engaged in stimulating and fun activities which promote independent learning. The online resources in the website are updated on the 18th day of every month. Initial structure was not as developed as now and online access was limited posing downloading problems as the

7 8

Mdm. Alli Allagoo, ETD/MOE, personal interview April 2, 2007


users were using the dial-up modems. In 2005 with the advent of Broadband and forthcoming contributions by teachers and pupils the site gained popularity. According to Mdm. Alli Allagoo, of ETD, hits rate is high rising from 1 to 200 hits per month in 2001 to an average of 9000 to 10000 hits per month in 2007.

2004 - 2007 MOE IROnline9 (Ministry of Education Interactive Resources Online) where teachers' resources for primary, secondary and junior college are available. MOE had created this website to store its repository of online materials for primary, secondary and junior college. New initiatives taking advantage of WEB2.0 tools like blogging and pod casting are getting popular. But these are still at the infant stage.

Hindrances by the various Tamil font encodings and keyboard layouts had plagued the TL teachers (and developers) in moving forward and develop new software. It is hoped that with MOE embarking on an initiative (2007) to unify the entire education structure with the Unicode system, all these crippling problems will cease.

With the recent SARS outbreak, MOE saw the need for on-line learning systems that could be depended upon if the student population had to be quarantined at home for lengthy periods. All schools have embarked on a mission to create on-line learning platforms on their school servers. But currently there are only 3 vendors who provide Tamil language content to the schools. Quest4Tamil is the leading provider of e-learning services for Tamil teachers. It is the only company with an LMS system incorporated Tamil e-learning platform in the



world. However even that vendor is facing difficulty getting schools to get their system.


"Present vendors on E-learning platform are unable to cater fully to the needs of Tamil

Language hence; Schools are finding difficulty in allotting the fund for procuring Tamil online learning materials. MOE syllabus change faster than the vendors can develop their content".

Conclusion After Master Plan2 and the introduction of Broadband, effective in-service courses conducted by MOE Training Branch and emphasis in infusing IT in teaching curriculum led to roles of teachers trying out e-learning to be more effective. Teachers are now more aware than ever, of the needs and have a change in mindset as to how to keep up with the changes in IT. Tamil Language teachers have come a long way from using basic word processing to using interactive tools in the new WEB 2.0. IT moves in a speed so fast that, what is current will become obsolete in months. Thus, teachers face an on-going challenges and constant struggle to keep abreast with changes in technology and schools expectations. Despite all these challenges, MOE, TL teachers had come a long way and played a critical role in the development of ICT in Tamil Language education in Singapore and the world.


Ms Latha, EduMasters Pte Ltd (Quest4Tamil), personal interview, March 29, 2007




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