THANKS to her parents, who instilled a love for the Tamil language in her as a child, Ms Thesigambigai Sinniah has developed a deep appreciation for Indian literature, music, songs, drama, moral values and historical works.
It also inspired the 27-year-old to become a pre-school teacher to share her love for the Tamil language and its culture with the next generation.
“I have always been interested in working with young children as I love their inquisitive nature and readiness to embrace new things. I want to make a difference in their lives as the early years are a crucial stage for children’s development,” she says.
Lacking the necessary preschool qualifications to teach at Ministry of Education (MOE) Kindergarten, Ms Thesigambigai applied for the MOE Kindergarten Teacher Training Programme in 2015 that would enable her to pick up the skills for planning and developing activities appropriate for children’s holistic development through an integrated approach to learning.
She says the course equipped her with the knowledge and skills for pre-school teaching, and provided an opportunity to engage in a guided practicum that exposed her to classroom management in a realistic setting.
As she progressed in her learning journey, she became more passionate about pre-school education.
Know your mother tongue
Currently, Ms Thesigambigai is a Tamil language teacher at the MOE Kindergarten @ Frontier Primary School where she works closely with young children to develop their interest in the language and nurture their early literacy skills.
She says: “Research has shown that the early years are a critical period to develop children’s listening and speaking skills for language learning.
“Apart from being languages of communication, mother tongues help one better understand and appreciate his or her culture and identity.”
Ms Thesigambigai teaches MOE Kindergarten’s Starlight Literacy Programme, offered in English and mother tongue languages, which aims to nurture early childhood bilingualism.
She explains that the programme’s pedagogic approach focuses on listening and speaking, the use of songs and stories set in the local context and a systematic development of early literacy skills through Shared Reading using Big Books.
“Learning comes alive for the children as they engage in fun and engaging activities such as music, songs, role play, interactive games, discussions and group work with their friends,” she says.
The curriculum also offers a Weeks of Wonder (WoW) projects component, where pre-schoolers choose a topic of interest to investigate together with their friends. Teachers facilitate the children’s learning by introducing them to different modes of investigation and research.
“The WoW projects allow children to experience the joy of self-motivated learning. It nurtures their confidence and dispositions towards learning,” she adds.
Strong mentoring culture
At MOE Kindergarten, new teachers like Ms Thesigambigai receive support and guidance from experienced mentors to help them acquire the necessary knowledge and skills in areas such as classroom management and teaching practices.
Her centre head also encourages teachers to attend training workshops organised by the Early Childhood Development Agency and find ways to improve their teaching pedagogies and hone their classroom management skills.
Her professional development is also supported by a team of curriculum specialists at MOE Kindergarten, who design and conduct training sessions for teachers to deepen their understanding of the curriculum.
Through these professional development platforms, teachers have ample opportunities to discuss and give feedback on the curriculum, as well as to reflect on their teaching practices and improve the quality of their lessons.
Ms Thesigambigai is currently pursuing a part-time degree in Early Childhood Education with Psychology from the Singapore University of Social Sciences to deepen her knowledge and understanding of child development.
She says: “One of the most fulfilling aspects of working in the early childhood sector is witnessing and playing a part in the children’s developmental progress.
“When the children overcome their fear of learning the Tamil language and converse confidently in it, this gives me the affirmation that I am making a difference as an MOE Kindergarten teacher.”