Preserving Bangla language and culture in Singapore

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Culture is a defining feature of a person’s identity, contributing to how they see themselves and the groups with which they identify. Language is intrinsic to the expression of culture. That is, language is fundamental to cultural identity. The loss of language means the loss of culture and identity.

In short, when languages disappear, cultures die. As a means of communicating values, beliefs and customs, language has an important social function. It fosters feelings of group identity and solidarity. It is one of the means by which culture and its traditions and shared values may be conveyed and preserved.

Students performing a short drama on the Ekushey (21st) February event

Bangladesh is perhaps the only country established solely on linguistic nationalism. Bangladeshis sacrificed their lives for the recognition of Bangla as a national language and it is due to their effort that the 21st February is now recognized as the ‘International Mother Language Day’ by the United Nations.

All individuals must feel free to explore the uniqueness of their culture and identity while developing understandings of the cultural diversity that exists in the world around them. Denying cultural expression means limiting the expression of unique perspectives on life and the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation.

Therefore, within multilingual societies, such as Singapore, the maintenance of the languages of the various ethnic and cultural groups is critical for the preservation of cultural heritage and identity. Understanding and valuing cultural diversity are the keys to countering racism, fostering tolerance and promoting harmony. Recognizing the critical importance of preserving languages of its different communities, the Government of Singapore has a programme to support the teaching of Non-Tamil Indian Languages (NTIL).

The Bangladeshi diaspora community in Singapore, which includes the Bangladesh Language and Cultural Foundation (BLCF), has been successful in having Bangla recognized as one of the NTIL languages by the Government of Singapore. Other NTIL languages are Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.

Brief history

The Bangladesh Language and Cultural Foundation (BLCF) was established in July 2000 as an organization of Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents holding Bangladeshi passports. It is registered as a society with the Singapore Registrar of Societies. The BLCF aims to promote understanding and goodwill between Singapore and Bangladesh. Another major aim is to inculcate our new generation with the vibrant culture of Bangladesh.

The main language of Bangladesh is Bangla. So, the BLCF established a Bangla language school for teaching Bangla to the younger generation.  The BLCF Bangla School enrols students from Primary 1 to A levels. It aims to impart to its students the literary skills required for proficient verbal and written communication and to take national examinations under the Ministry of Education.

Objectives

    • To render the best services to our children to learn Bangla to excel in all the national examinations and choose the subjects of their choice to build the best careers to contribute to the community and the country and be good citizens of Singapore making us proud.
    • To promote the culture of Bangladesh in Singapore.

We envisage that one day Bangla will be a fully recognized national language of Singapore. By learning Bangla language our children will learn and understand the rich and vibrant culture of Bangladesh and at the same time excel in their academic and professional careers and be responsible good citizens of Singapore.

Current status

It has been 23 years since the BLCF Bangla School was established. It had a humble beginning with only 15 students and now the number is almost 300. The BLCF now has two centres for teaching Bangla language: one is at Zhangde Primary School and the other one is at Xingnan Primary School.

The BLCF works directly with the Board for the Teaching and Testing of South Asian Languages (BTTSAL). The five NTIL languages have a common curriculum in their own languages which have been developed by the Mother Tongue specialists of the Board and the language teachers of the five languages.

The BLCF only permits admittance to those students who have obtained mother tongue approval letters from the Ministry of Education, Singapore and are going to local schools from Primary 1 to A Levels. We are proud to say that our students’ National Exam results are consistently very good. Our teachers are dedicated, patient and friendly. Our teaching team is highly qualified, trained and experienced. The teachers are always available for helping the students perform and excel.

Our students’ Primary School Leaving examination (PSLE, Singapore examination prior to Secondary School) results help them to get admitted to the best Secondary schools in Singapore and their GCE O & A Level results are also highly commendable. Students of the BLCF Bangla School are getting admitted to the best universities in Singapore and go on to establish themselves in fruitful careers such as lawyers, bankers, engineers, entrepreneurs and in the many world-class commercial and business institutions.

Students and teachers are getting ready for a performance to celebrate Bangla new year – Pohela Boishakh

The BLCF regularly organizes cultural functions to promote the culture of Bangladesh. The students are encouraged to take part in cultural activities such as poetry recitations, drama, singing, dancing and other performing arts besides their academic curriculum.

Parents of our students are enthusiastic and are always encouraging their children to embrace their rich cultural traditions. The BLCF gets tremendous support from its parents and is one of the reasons for the students performing well.  With the support of our Management Committee, teachers, students and parents, the BLCF has achieved a lot of good results in the past 20 years, and we are motivated to take this organization to greater heights.

BLCF’s children celebrating Childrens’ Day
Annual BLCF Picnic with parents, students and teachers.
BLCF celebrates the International Mother Language Day (21st February)
BLCF Team at the Book Fair
Mirza_Golam_Sabur
Mirza Golam Sabur

Mirza Golam Sabur is a marine engineer by profession. Having served in large ocean-going ships for more than fifteen years he settled down ashore in 1995 to pursue maritime services specializing in safety inspection and audits of oil and gas installations. Besides his profession he participates in various social and community works in Singapore. Development of Bangla language for the Bangla speaking expatriates in Singapore has been a strong passion for Mr. Sabur. This very passion motivated him to take an active role in the formation of Bangladesh Language & Cultural Foundation (BLCF) in 2000 along with ten other pioneers, namely Prof. Belal Baaquie, Mrs. Najma Baaquie, Mrs. Milia Islam Sabed, Mrs. Homaira Ali, Mrs. Laila Haque, Mr. Zulfiqur Husain, Ms. Zinnat Ara, Ms. Naznin Sultana, Ms. Arjuman Ara and Dr. Kohinoor Begum. Mirza Golam Sabur is the General Secretary of BLCF. E-mail: mgsabur@gmail.com

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Mirza Golam Sabur is a marine engineer by profession. Having served in large ocean-going ships for more than fifteen years he settled down ashore in 1995 to pursue maritime services specializing in safety inspection and audits of oil and gas installations. Besides his profession he participates in various social and community works in Singapore. Development of Bangla language for the Bangla speaking expatriates in Singapore has been a strong passion for Mr. Sabur. This very passion motivated him to take an active role in the formation of Bangladesh Language & Cultural Foundation (BLCF) in 2000 along with ten other pioneers, namely Prof. Belal Baaquie, Mrs. Najma Baaquie, Mrs. Milia Islam Sabed, Mrs. Homaira Ali, Mrs. Laila Haque, Mr. Zulfiqur Husain, Ms. Zinnat Ara, Ms. Naznin Sultana, Ms. Arjuman Ara and Dr. Kohinoor Begum. Mirza Golam Sabur is the General Secretary of BLCF. E-mail: mgsabur@gmail.com

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