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Seetha Lakshmi
Tamil Language
Classroom environment
Classroom interaction
Standard spoken Tamil
Secondary school
Issue Date: 
Discourse is termed as the ‘language in use’ (Cook, 1989). The analysis of discourse is termed as the analysis of language in use (Brown & Yule, 1983). Discourse analysis investigates the link between language and how it is used. Discourse taking place in Singapore Secondary school Tamil classroom’s reading lessons were analysed. Case study approach was chosen as it can be used to generate an in-depth, multi-faceted understanding of problems faced in Standard Spoken Tamil discourse and assisted to generate new ideas to approach that. Participants were based on purposive sampling consisting of two average government schools comprising all levels from Normal Technical, Normal Academic and Express streams. All levels were considered as this will allow comparisons in classroom discourse across all levels. As usually there will only be one or two Tamil teachers teaching all levels in a school, it might not be a fair assessment to compare between teachers. Therefore, two schools were considered as they might consist of about 4-5 Tamil teachers which would be a fair assessment to compare the discourse taking place over two schools. Lessons were observed, recorded, transcripted and coded based on a modified pre-determined coding “Tamil Classroom Observation Questionnaire” (TCOQ). This questionnaire is adapted from an existing Questionnaire (Kogut & Silver, 2010). A focus group discussion was conducted using a modified questionnaire “Tamil Language Interview Questionnaire” (TLIQ) to understand the differences in discourse taking place in classrooms and outside. The transcript was then analysed to find the type of discourse that took place in a typical Tamil classroom, to what extent was it pragmatic to natural conversation and to understand the relationship between teacher and the students. What kind of experience does the Tamil class offer students in Singapore schools? Does it motivate Tamil class students to speak in Tamil? What is the power relationship between teachers and students in Tamil classes? Does the teacher maintain his authority or does he maintain his authority as a facilitator? The language the teacher uses, the way he speaks, the vocabulary, the sentence structure, the voice tone, is he willing or unwilling to accept the students' opinion? How are the conversations taking place in the classroom? What kind of environment does the teacher build in the classroom? Do students speak Tamil confidently in class? The purpose of the study is to identify these questions.

This study was based on the following research questions:

1. What is the nature of Student - Teacher relationship in Tamil classrooms?
2. How is the nature of Tamil Language in classroom and outside classrooms?
3. To what extend is Standard Spoken Tamil (SST) used in Tamil classrooms?

Research Findings
Tamil classrooms anchor traditional teaching methods (Kogut & Silver, 2009) whereby the teacher dominates in terms of quantity of talk, number of turns, makes the lesson going, keeps the lesson on topic and manages the students. Resistance to learning were restricted to classes with a lower level of rapport between students and teacher. Few opportunities were provided for self-lead or student pair discussions. Students’ preferred discourse, in and out of classrooms (when teacher is not around), was in English. Students who spoke Tamil in class, naturally did the same outside of class as well, and students who did not speak Tamil in class did not use the language outside of class too. Students did not feel embarrassed or afraid to use the language. However, they hesitated to use the language. They did not use it to initiate a conversation with a stranger but were willing to converse if the stranger initiated. The hesitance arose as they felt they might be deemed to be a minority. Even if students spoke Tamil outside classrooms, they hardly read Tamil books on their own accord and did not prefer to read notices or send sms in Tamil. They would not choose a Tamil related career and did not find role models who motivated them. They were restricted by their lack of vocabulary and limited sentence structure knowledge. Teachers spoke more in class and often asked “Closed Questions”. Though teachers decide conversation topics and times, there was flexibility when determining who could speak at any given time. Teachers took special consideration for weaker students. Reading lessons were conducted to train students for oral examinations and non-oral examinations concepts.
Issued Date: 
Call Number: 
PL4754 Uma
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Appears in Collections:Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

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