History of the Hindi Society
In January 1989, the Singapore North Indian Hindu Association invited the Arya Samaj, the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Temple and certain individuals to form a Pro-Tem Hindi Committee to look into the study of Hindi. Mr S. Tiwari was elected as Chairman of the Pro-Tem Committee. Later representatives of the Singapore Gujarati Society, the Singapore Sindhi Merchants Association and the Singapore Bengali Association joined the Committee.
The Pro-Tem Committee met for the first time on 4 Feb 1989 and began an examination of the various facets of the matter, for example, the number of students likely to study Hindi, measures to attract such students, information on the Hindi-speaking population, the logistics of organisation of classes, availability of facilities, finance, the question of representations to the Ministry for Education, etc. Sub-groups were set up to look into these issues.
Mr Tiwari met the then Minister for Education, Dr Tony Tan on the issue. The representations were intended to put on record the problems faced by Hindi-speaking students and to request for the recognition of Hindi as a second language. On 6 Oct 1989, the Minister for Education made an announcement in Parliament that Hindi - together with Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi and Urdu - would be allowed to be offered as a second language in Secondary schools up to the 'O' Level Examinations. However, the students would have to make their own arrangements for their teachers, though the Ministry would provide the premises for lessons.
The first Hindi classes, organised by the Pro-Tem Hindi Committee, started on 21 Jan 1990 at Beng Wan Primary School. They were mainly for the teaching of Hindi at secondary level. The Hindi Society (Singapore) was registered on 4 Aug 90; Hindi primary classes started on 5 Aug 1990. The Ministry of Education subsequently approved the taking of Hindi as a second language at 'A' levels on 25 Mar 1991 and the PSLE on 23 Jul 1993.
The holding of Hindi classes at Beng Wan Primary School was a historic occasion for the Hindi-speaking population of Singapore. This was the first time that Hindi teaching had been organised on an island-wide basis, in a government school, and with the support of so many Indian organisations. This was also the first time that a Hindi society had been set up in the Republic.
The Hindi classes are part of the self-help initiative that the Hindi-speaking community has embarked upon to enable students to study Hindi and to preserve their cultural traditions. The Hindi Society (Singapore) was set up to provide a direction and continuity to this initiative.