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More tools to boost bilingual learning

Lee Kuan Yew fund to spend $1.6m on 10 projects over next two years.
December 8, 2012
By: Stacey Chia
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More tools to boost bilingual learning

FROM digital storybooks to YouTube music videos, parents and preschool teachers will soon be able to tap more teaching and learning resources to improve bilingual learning.

The Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism announced yesterday it will fund 10 proposals that support the learning of English and mother tongue.

The fund will pump in about $1.6 million to develop these projects over the next two years, fund vice-chairman Sim Ann said at a press conference.

A call for proposals was made in July and about 90 applications have been received so far.

Ten were chosen based on factors such as their relevance and potential to benefit the larger community. Many of the selections also have a "local flavour", said Ms Sim, who is also Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Communications and Information.

The chosen entries were submitted by organisations such as the Institute of Technical Education and Seed Institute, as well as individuals such as songwriter Richard Wan Kum Wah and author Shekinah Linn.

Some of these resources will be available by the end of next year.

EyePower Games, for instance, will create digital storybooks for those with Malay and Tamil as their mother tongue.

Said its founder, Mr Randy Ang: "As part of our business, we do produce digital storybooks for Mandarin-speaking children, but for this we wanted to focus on Malay and Tamil as there aren't as many tools for them."

Mr Wan, who has written many Mandarin songs used in children's television shows, will write songs in both Mandarin and English. The 50-year-old said he will also create music videos for these songs and upload them on platforms like YouTube.

Many of the chosen projects also have a strong local context.

For instance, Doby Studio, which will create 20 books, will include the story of a pigeon eating food on the ground in a hawker centre. This will be used to inculcate traits like cleanliness.

Ms Sim said there is a limited pool of resources that improve bilingual learning because "not many countries... devote as much attention to bilingualism".

"When the teaching and learning resources are based on overseas context... the kind of vocabulary and knowledge that they (the children) are absorbing... may then also not be so immediately usable," she added.

The fund was set up by former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in November last year. It has since raised $119 million in donations.

The next call for proposals is scheduled for early next year.

staceyc@sph.com.sg

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