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Tamil Education in U.S.,Canada &Singapore

Tamil Education in U.S.,Canada &Singapore

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A Report on Tamil Education in US,Canada&Singapore submitted in an International conference conducted by Institute of Asian Studies at Chennai,India during 2008.
A Report on Tamil Education in US,Canada&Singapore submitted in an International conference conducted by Institute of Asian Studies at Chennai,India during 2008.

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Published by: Maraimalai Ilakkuvanar on May 28, 2013
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Tamil education in U.S.,Canada and Singapore—A Report with some suggestions
--Maraimalai Ilakkuvanar
After a century-long struggle and persistent demands,we achieved the centralgovernment’s announcement and declaration of the classical language status accorded toTamil.Now we are eagerly expecting the propagation of Tamil language and literaturethroughout the world,especially in most of the universities worldwide.Now this is ahumble venture to assess the Tamil teaching in Universities at U.S.,Canada andSingapore.Instead of relying on secondary sources I wished to send a questionnare to theProfessors,engaged in teaching Tamil at various universities.Not only the data provided by them but also their own statements are compiled and givenhere just to avoid ambiguity and redundancy.Dr.K.Karunagaran has given an overview of Tamil education at U.S.In USA :-------- Tamil teaching and Tamil Studies programs are almost 47 years old. Started inthe year 1961-62,in the University of Chicago,Chicago,it was later on became a Centerfor South Asia Area Studies program under the headship of Prof.A.K.Ramanujan. Thisprogram was inaugurated by Prof.T.P.M. at Chicago under their invitation,and Prof.TPMgave a series of Lectures on Tamil Language & Tamil Literature.And still later theselectures were published under the titles"History of Tamil Language"by the DeccanCollege,Poona and "History of Tamil Literature" by the Annamalai university.At onepoint of time Tamil was taught in more than 17 Centres through out USA.But now(as of 2007),Tamil is being taught in the following Universities in USA:1) University of California, Berkeley-Tamil is taught to 35 to 40 students each semester courses. It is also given for theGraduate program -for M.A. and Ph.D.research. (For the past 35 years)-Prof.George Hartis in Charge of the Program.It was the University of California that started research in thearea of Dravidian Languages under the stewardship pf Prof.M.B.Emeneau in the early1950s.Prof.Emeneau along with Prof.T.Burrow of the Oxford University (U.K.)published a monumental work under the tiltle"Dravidian Etymological Dictionary" .Inthis work find atleast 60% of the root words are drawn from Tamil language, whichrichly supports the view that Tamil was the ancient language of the Dravidian Family of languages and mother of such languages.2) Univesity of Chicago: Tamil teaching continues for more than 45 years (20 studentseach semester) and encourages Tamil studies in different social science disciplines.3)University of Michigan, Michigan:Around 30 to 35 students at the Undergraduate level doing Tamil learning. Atleast 3 to 4Ph.D. scholars working for their graduate and Ph.D. programs related to Tamil studiessuch as Anthropology, sociology, women studies, Hinduism, Literature and so on.4) University of Texas at Austin (Texas)-
 
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Around 20 students each semester as well as Graduate program in Tamil studies,5) University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia-This institution attracts around 20 studentseach semester in the under graduate program. There are opportunities for doing theGraduate programs related to South Asian Languages and Cultures.6) University of Wisconsin, Madison (USA)-It has only Summer Tamil Teaching ProgramAt least 12 to 20 students take part during each summer.They also have acollaborative program with AIIS at Madurai(American College).7) University of Colombia,Virginia- It has part time Tamil teaching program,8) University of Yale-It has undergraduate and graduate programs and attracts around10 to 15 students each semester.9) New York State University, Stonybrook, NY there is a Dept. Dravidian Studies,10) University of North Carolina: It has part-time Tamil teaching at present They aretrying to have full time teaching in the coming years. However there are some privateorganizations and individuals giving instruction in Tamil to children and adultsdepending upon their need in some states and places-especially some of the TamilSangams and Tamil Cultural organizations. South Asian Languages and Cultures is oneof the broader areas in which interest is shown especially in research and graduateprograms. Several researchers visit Tamilnadu, SriLanka and other Tamil-speakingcountries for field study and pursue research in connection with their Ph.D. and higherlevel project works. Comparative study of Literatures with Tamil, as well asLinguistics is also pursued in several centers. Of late, interest is shown with reference tosocial and religious philosophies as well as cultures in South Asia.Native Medicine, Philosophy, Religious thought, Translation, Antiquity of Tamil, Epicslike Chilappathikaram etc.are the fields of research now.”Among the universities enlisted by Dr.K.Karunagaran,University of California,Berkeleydeserves a special mention.It is the only university which holds a Tamil Chair.The creditgoes to the Illustrious Tamil scholar Dr.George L.Hart,who is a Professor of Tamil thereFrom 1970.He and his wife Kausalya Hart,by their persistent efforts convinced the Tamilcommunity there to donate funds to establish a Tamil chair.It was established in 1997 andI had the privilege to be the first visiting Professor of this prestigious Tamil chair,by thesincere efforts of George Hart.George Hart has done a commendable service for the propagation of Sangam classicsWorldwide,by his research as well as his translations.His translation works of Purananooru and other sangam poems are described in detail in the appandix.Dr.K.Karunagaran,now a Tamil lecturer in the University of Michigan and previouslywas the Vice Chancellor of Tamil University,Thanjavur gave the following suggestion:“It is a good thing if the Govt. TamilNadu establishes at least one strong and permanentchair for Tamil Teaching in an US university in the near future. That would go a longway in the development of Tamil reaching and fostering Tamil studies in the
 
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New world.Tamil music, and Tamil drama could also form part of Tamil studies.Lot of interest is evinced in the area of Tamil native music and Nataka Tamil (like Silambu andother old plays and stage).”He also suggested if the Government solicits the co-operation of the Tamil diaspora therethe scheme will be more successful.“ It would be useful to take into confidence some of the fore-runners in establishingTamil sangams and Tamil Literary forums in USAin the early 1970s.. There are a fewindividuals who are really strong and can do something concrete for the development of such studies in the larger interest of Tamil and Tamil culture.”For the past ten years Dr.K.Karunagaran is doing a remarkable job there in impartingTamil education.To put it in his own words:“ As for the University of Michigan during the past 10 years I have trained atleast 300under graduate sudents and 30-35 graduate students (Ph.D. level) in Tamil and Tamilstudies.”Dr.Vasu Renganathan,who teaches Tamil at the University of Pennsylvania describes thehistory and nature of the Tamil courses there:
“History of Tamil courses at the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania has been offering Tamil language and literature atthree levels of language courses for the past two decades, besides guiding a number of Ph.D. students who conduct their research in Tamil related areas. We have had studentsboth from Tamil heritage as well as from non-natives who specialize in Tamil languageand literature research as part of their graduate program. The three levels of instructionthat we offer consistently are beginning, intermediate and advanced Tamil courses.Besides, we also offer independent study courses to cater the needs of Tamil researchers.
Syllabus
All the three levels of courses that we offer in our department are meant toprovide Tamil language education from learning alphabet to learn to read, write andspeak the language fluently. Our syllabi for all of these courses are designed in such away that the students acquire native like proficiency at the end of three levels of instruction. These courses are designed for two semesters each for about eight months,and five hours per week. In all of these courses students learn the grammar of bothspoken and written Tamil. Advanced level and independent study students are taughtTamil literatures from Sangam to Modern Tamil, and consequently they conduct researchin any one piece of literature of their choice. In the past, advanced level students hadchosen to study Manimekalai, Silappatikaram, Alwar’s poems and Nayanmar’s works.Topics of our Ph.D. students range from study of Sangam and religious literaturesof Tamil Nadu, Temples of Tamil Nadu, study of folk literature and so on. Students fromthe disciplines of Anthropology, Folklore, History, Religion and Political Science areinvolved in post graduate level research in Tamil.
Strength of students.(For the past 5 years)
Tamil classes in all of the three levels usually contain for about twenty to twentyfive students in total. Out of these, about fifty percent of them are heritage learners, whowant to learn the language to maintain their Tamil background at home. Others are

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