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Speech By Mr S Iswaran At The SIM University Celebratory Dinner - First Batch Of BATL Graduates 2009

Speech By Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister Of State For Trade And Industry At The SIM University Celebratory Dinner For First Batch Of BA Tamil Language And Literature (BATL) Graduates 2009, 7.55pm On 17 January 2009 At Raffles Hotel

Professor Cham Tao Soon, Chairman, SIM University;
Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, SIM University;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;


  1. Good evening.

  1. Anai varukum Vanakam. I am delighted to be invited to the graduation dinner for SIM University’s pioneer batch of graduates in the Bachelor of Arts in Tamil Language and Literature (BATL) programme. It is Singapore’s first and only degree programme in this area.

  1. This dinner is a celebration for many reasons. It is a celebration of your academic achievements over the challenging past three years. It is a celebration of the commitment that some of you have shown towards life-long learning while balancing your career, family, personal life, and your desire for higher qualifications. And it is a celebration of a unique academic programme that raises the standard of Tamil language and literature teaching to a higher level.

  1. Language is more than just a vehicle for human communication; it is an expression of our social identity. Language can build solidarity between individuals, groups, and communities. Singapore’s strong focus on bilingualism has helped to preserve the importance of language in our multi-cultural society, whether it is for social cohesion, academic pursuit or for seeking business opportunities.

  1. The BATL curriculum was developed by local and Tamil Nadu scholars. The programme is similar to those offered in India yet unique in that it includes valuable local content and takes into the context of Singapore. Courses like modern literature, history of Tamil literature and translation are taught by accomplished local lecturers and renowned guest-lecturers from Tamil Nadu.

  1. Mr K. Shanmugam and Dr S. Thinnappan form the core team that oversee and facilitate the programme respectively. Programme Head, Mr. Shanmugam has worked 15 years in the Curriculum Planning & Development Division in M.O.E. while Adjunct Professor and Programme Advisor, Dr Thinnappan is a leading Tamil scholar who has been involved in Singapore’s Tamil education for nearly three decades.

  1. The BATL programme is an excellent addition to UniSIM’s linguistic offerings, and an incredible opportunity for non-graduate Tamil language teachers and Tamil language enthusiasts to pursue an MOE-recognised higher qualification. Non-graduate teachers will be encouraged to know that they will be considered for emplacement on the graduate salary scale by MOE after completing the programme.

  1. Before the launch of the UniSIM programme, going for overseas study in Tamil Nadu was the only option for second language teachers who wanted to upgrade themselves. This is both time-consuming and expensive for them to realise their aspirations. I would like to commend UniSIM for bringing this programme to Singapore. It is the only institution to date to offer the full suite of MOE-approved language and literature degree programmes in all the four major languages in Singapore, with the Malay programme to be launched in end January.

  1. UniSIM courses in the four languages are targeted at meeting the rising demand and interest in language and literature. The programmes enjoy strong support particularly from teachers interested in enhancing their language proficiency and enthusiasts of language and literature studies.

  1. I urge UniSIM to continue offering such quality programmes in response to niche but important market needs, thus further augmenting its unique mission of shaping the quality of Singapore’s workforce through education and continuing learning for working adults and professionals. The government recognises the importance of promoting continuing education and life-long learning, and thus offers eligible students subsidies of up to 40% for their tertiary education at UniSIM.

  1. Tonight, the fifteen pioneer graduates have set an example that I hope many others will emulate. Their pursuit of learning and upgrading through the economic slowdown is noteworthy. I urge you all to continue making inroads in improving Tamil education in Singapore and to ensure that your own teaching is continually imbued by an endless passion for learning.

  1. Let me leave you with an ageless thirukkural on learning: Kay-dil viluch-chelvam kalvi oruvetku mahdalla matra yavai. Learning is the most enduring of riches. All other riches are short-lived.

  1. Once again, congratulations to the graduates. Nanri, vanakam.
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