By Asia Samachar | Singapore |
Veteran Punjabi language educationist Gurmeet Kaur has taken over the new chairperson for Singapore Sikh Education Foundation (SSEF), a self-help group in Singapore providing Punjabi Language education for students from Kindergarten to A Levels.
She was previously the centre principal as well as the SSEF vice-chairperson where she has served for more than 30 years. The new vice-chairperson is Manjit Kaur, also another long-time serving SSEF volunteer.
“We are both educators from the mainstream schools and have served in different capacities and supported SSEF in many ways,” Gurmeet told Asia Samachar in an email interview.
SSEF runs weekend classes at Whitley Secondary School for primary, secondary and junior college (JC) students. It also runs a Khalsa Kindergarten at Beatty Road for pre-primary classes.
Moving forward, she said SSEF has to ‘respond to the changing needs and the evolving landscape’.
SSEF Punjabi Language School comes under the purview of the Board of Teaching and Testing of South Asian Languages (BTTSAL). BTTSAL is recognised by Singapore’s Ministry of Education as it oversees the curriculum and assessment practices across the five officially recognised Non-Tamil Indian Languages (NTIL), according to SSEF website.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
Tell us about the changes at SSEF?
I would like to start off by acknowledging the good work done by our outgoing Chairperson Penji Gurdial Kaur. Penji Gurdial, who had served the Singapore Sikh Education Foundation (SSEF) for more than 30 years, has placed the SSEF in good stead in both the areas of Teaching and Learning and financial stability. We are indeed grateful to her and her team for the SSEF we inherit today.
Before becoming the Chairperson, I was the Centre Principal and Vice -Chairperson with the SSEF, where I have served for more than 30 years as well. My Vice-Chair Manjeet Penji and I are not new to SSEF. We are both educators from the mainstream schools and have served in different capacities and supported SSEF in many ways.
Together with my Management Committee members, who come from different fields and bring with them varied experiences, lots of enthusiasm, different perspectives, our hope is to bring SSEF to yet another level by building on the good work done thus far. We hope to respond to the changing needs and the evolving landscape.
A good illustration is SSEF’s response to the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020. Home Based Learning (HBL) was put in place for all levels from Kindergarten to A Levels using either our existing portal or Google Meet. The SSEF is fortunate to have educators leading the organisation who were able to guide and train the teachers to look at the possibilities of re-enacting classroom instructions through the SSEF online portal and Google Classroom.
Our teachers had to learn a new skill and adapt to new habits and behaviour. This is a great challenge for the teachers as it is a new mode of teaching and learning. Despite that, the challenges were surmounted, and teachers continue to respond favourably– understanding the need to move forward.
What motivates the students to join SSEF?
Motivation to learn Punjabi stems from two factors — the school and the home. At the Centre, we provide a learning environment that engages and encourages the learning of Punjabi. Beyond learning Punjabi students are exposed to culture and traditions and the opportunity to interact with other likeminded students. Our students, both at the SSEF Punjabi School and SSEF Kindergarten, look forward to Saturdays, as this is where they meet and interact with friends once a week; learn the language together, share stories gathered over the week and appreciate the culture; which is the by product that comes along with learning any language. We urge our parents to continue to provide the opportunity for our students to use the Punjabi Language as much as possible in the home environment.
What are the primary challenges in imparting the Panjabi Language education to the students?
It is a fact that acquiring a high level of competency in the Mother Tongue is extremely challenging due to the largely English-based education and social system in Singapore. Tremendous efforts have been undertaken over the years to make Second Language/ Mother Tongue learning a critical pillar in our education system. These challenges are not alien to the Sikh community. Nevertheless, much progress has been made over the last 30 years and the new Management will continue this effort of enhancing the resiliency of Punjabi as a Mother Tongue Language.
Collaboration is a must for the SSEF and in this aspect we believe in partnership with our key stakeholders – our parents. We believe in regular communication and having platforms for dialogues. With the challenges of Covid 19 pandemic, we have tapped on technology to make it happen. Parents are kept regularly informed of their child’s progress, SSEF activities and their input is sought, and feedback is very much appreciated as we believe that such openness and communication will aid SSEF in soaring to greater heights.
What are the immediate challenges faced by you and your team?
Moving forward, the new management will focus on culture building where we believe that as long as we forge ahead together in SSEF, we will continue to thrive and flourish in the years ahead. It is our fervent desire that we continue to make inroads and transform the teaching and learning of Punjabi Language. Student engagement will continue to be the key focus in every classroom for every teacher and with that the Joy of learning the Punjabi Language will be apparent on all our students’ faces such that we realise our vision of Aspiring Learners, Critical and Creative Thinkers who are anchored in Sikh values.
As we continue to bring Punjabi Language acquisition to greater heights, we are extremely appreciative that even though we are a sub-minority, we are fortunate to have Punjabi Language recognised officially as one of the Mother Tongues in the context of bilingualism in Singapore.
SSEF ADVISORS AND MANAGEMENT TEAM
Advisors: Bhajan Singh, Gurdial Kaur, Inderjit Singh
Chairperson: Gurmeet Kaur
Vice-Chairperson: Manjit Kaur
Treasurer: Kaveeta Sandhu
Asst Treasurer: Gurpreet Singh
Secretary: Jaswant Kaur
Asst Secretary: Kulvinder Kaur
Members: Bhubhindar Singh, Inderjit Singh, Malminderjit Singh, Prabhinder Singh, Sarabjeet Singh and Simranjit Singh
Principal SSEF Punjabi School: Jasbir Singh
Principal SSEF Kindergarten: Inderjeet Kaur
Deputy Principal SSEF Punjabi School: Baljeet Kaur
Panjabi classes back in swing for Singapore students (Asia Samachar, 10 Jan 2021)
ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond.Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: email@example.com | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |
This should start in Malaysia. Many including myself would be willing to give monthly daswand for not only Punjabi but Gurmukhi and Gurbani classes for children and adults run by properly trained individuals. Instead of building or renovating neverending Gurdwaras, this is where community funds should be channeled into.
Well done to the hard work 👏🏻🙏🏻