Singapore Sikh Education Foundation (SSEF)

History of Punjabi Language Education in Singapore
Singapore is a multi-racial state with a population of 5.4 million people. The Chinese majority comprises 76% of the population with the Malays totalling 14%. Indians 8% and Others 2%. Among the Indians, 64% are Tamils and Sikhs about 3.7%. The Sikh community is one of the smallest ethnic groups in Singapore and is usually considered part of the larger North Indian community. According to the 2010 census, there are about 12,952 Sikhs in Singapore. The Sikhs first came to Singapore in 1819 as sepoys, servants or convicts of the British East India Company.
Punjabi Language was taught in gurdwaras (places of worship) for many years. It was also taught at a Waterloo Street centre and the Singapore Khalsa Association.
Bilingualism and the Post-1989 Language Policy
Bilingual Education has been the cornerstone of Singapore’s education policy since the mid-1950s and given special emphasis since independence in August 1965. All school-going children study at least 2 languages. English is the language of instruction in all public schools. Additionally, every student studies a Mother Tongue Language. Chinese, Malay and Tamil were the official Mother Tongue Languages offered in Singapore schools until 1989.
From 1989, the Ministry of Education, Singapore offered five additional languages that students could choose from with Punjabi Language being one of them. This gave the Singapore Sikh community new opportunities to promote the teaching of Punjabi Language. Hence, also began the community’s efforts to establish a foundation to teach Punjabi Language in Singapore.
Setting up of the Singapore Sikh Education Foundation
As a community project, the Singapore Sikh Education Foundation was inaugurated on 30 December 1990 to provide Punjabi Language education based on the Examination syllabus guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education, Singapore. 
Organisation of the Punjabi Programme
In early 1990, four Centres were set up to serve the community at different locations in the Republic. These were Si Ling Centre in the North, Bedok Centre in the East, Clementi Centre in the West and Teck Ghee Centre to serve the central and Southern localities of the Republic. Khalsa Punjabi School at Singapore Khalsa Association, which had been running Punjabi classes in the past, continued to run as a fifth Centre.
History of the Centres
In 1996, the Khalsa Punjabi School came under the auspices of the Singapore Sikh Education Foundation with the Centre renamed as the Khalsa Centre. In 1998, the Si Ling Centre moved to Yishun and functioned as Yishun Centre. In 2002, Teck Ghee Centre and Khalsa Centre merged and started functioning at Beatty Secondary School as Khalsa Centre. In 2003, further reorganisation led to the Yishun Centre being merged with the new Khalsa Centre and began functioning at First Toa Payoh Primary School as Khalsa Centre. Since the start of 2014, Khalsa Centre has been functioning at Yio Chu Kang Secondary School.

One of the earliest challenges facing the Foundation was the identification and acquisition of Punjabi language instructional materials for students studying the language in an international setting. In order to supplement the available materials, the Foundation in 1991, embarked upon the writing of Punjabi Language Textbooks and Workbooks from Pre-Primary to Pre-University levels. As the student enrolment grew from 300 in 1990 to nearly 2000 in 2002, these workbooks have served the educational needs of the students.

Over the years, under the leadership of it's first Chairman, Mr Bhajan Singh, the Sikh Education Foundation has gone through a number of milestone activities as captured in the presentation above. Mr Santokh Singh took over as Chairman of SSEF in October 2014. Since then, the teachers have been led through a number of engagement sessions to ensure that the curriculum is impacting pupils learning. In January 2016, Phenji Gurdial Kaur took over as the Chairperson for SSEF. Mr Santokh Singh continued to support the SSEF as an Advisor until his demise in 2016.

The result of the rigorous reviews of the curriculum has led to the restructuring of the entire Punjabi language curriculum based on latest developments in information technology, present day language teaching and learning strategies and the contemporary needs of Punjabi language. 
How you can get involved...

The Foundation welcomes your participation and involvement in the various programmes, activities and events. For additional information call our office at +65 62996440 or email us at

Last modified: Monday, 2 January 2017, 5:05 PM