V R P Manickam

There are those who love the Tamil Language and then there is Mr VRP Manickam. He not only has an immense love for the language, he strongly feels the need to spread that love far and wide.

Mr VRP Manickam grew up immersed in the Tamil language. Inspired by the mentors in his life, he dedicated all his adult life to this love. But it was what he did to spread that love which makes Mr Manickam stand out as an outstanding educator.

Reaching the shores of Singapore in 1952, Manickam joined the Vivekananda Tamil school. He had the good fortune of pursuing Higher Tamil under one his favourite teachers - Mr Pavadaisamy at the newly launched Umar Pulavar Tamil Language center. His teacher was a great influence, imbuing the love for the language in young Manickam and motivating him to pursue a career as a Tamil Teacher.

After a few years in Sennet estate school, he moved on to Deyi Secondary school before being posted to the ministry to develop Tamil curriculum. But his real contribution was yet to be realised till he joined the newly built Yishun Junior College in 1987 to start the Tamil Language Department.

In 1988, he launched the Tamil Language seminar, which was also known more popularly as the PRE-U Seminar in Tamil. While the PRE-U Seminar in English was already an iconic event, there were as yet no equivalent events in any other language. Mr Manickam, pioneered this initiative in Tamil even when the establishment at that time was in two minds about it. The first such event drew immense support from teachers, parents and over 300 – 400 students. Mr Manickam never wavered from the objective to promote Tamil Language and Literature, which has definitely contributed to the successful running of this event. The PRE-U SEMINAR in Tamil has gone on for 25 years since then and is still a hallmark event in the upper secondary school and Junior College calendars.


“It was the support that I got that kept me going.”

Mr Manickam drew upon the collective strength of the Tamil Teachers Union to support the events that he organised. He was the secretary of the literature division in the Tamil Teacher’s Union from 1970 – 1982. The friendship he forged with his compatriots allowed him and the union to carry out many activities promoting Tamil amongst students.

They organised competitions like short story writing, oratorical contests, debates and essay writing for primary, secondary and University level students. These events were well attended and year on year, grew in popularity. Teachers, parents and the community came together in force to support many of these events.

Shifting it’s perspective to an international level, the union wanted to share as well as learn about Tamil language education methodologies from other countries especially India where it was being taught at a higher level. It was Mr Manickam who spearheaded the first Tamil teachers’ conference yet again fighting off skeptics who did not understand the motivation behind this initiative.


“We organised the first Tamil teachers’ conference. Everyone asked why you want to do this.”

Mr Manickam had the clarity of thought and the support of like-minded teachers from the Tamil Teachers Union. But it was impossible for the handful of 15 to 20 members from the Union alone to organise an event like this at an international level. He needed all hands on deck. As he rallied for support, the community at large came forward with organizations and individuals stepping up to offer financial assistance or just to lend a hand in running the event. With community groups, restaurants, printing companies and media companies getting involved and the government giving their blessing eventually, Mr Manickam and the Union could boldly move ‘mountains’ to make the event a memorable one.

With another feather in their cap, the Tamil Teachers Union then shifted their focus back to the National level but all the time never wavering from their mission of promoting the Tamil Language.


“Day and night everyone came to sincerely help us to make this a success.”

Mr Manickam retired from teaching in 2004, but his services were still sought after and he has been requested to stay on as a temporary teacher in Yishun Junior College.

He tells 50FACES that he is currently in another phase of his life – writing books. This harks back to the year 1973, when he, together with his friends Mr Samikannu and Mr Masoothu, wrote their first book, a Tamil Language Exam Guide for primary school students.

Since his retirement he has written well over 20 books on topics which range from educational, motivational to religious. He makes it a point to publish one per year and again, he is grateful for the support of his friends and well-wishers. With such a wide range of books, even Mr Manickam finds it difficult to pick out his favourite one.


“Students are afraid to learn Tamil Grammar and shunned it.”

For his contribution to Tamil education in Singapore Mr VRP Manickam was honored with the Lifetime Achievement award at the Tamil Murasu Most Inspiring Tamil Teachers award ceremony in 2013.

Mr Manickam admits that the challenges facing Tamil education today are different from yesteryears, as the opportunity to use the language has shrunk considerably. But he is confident that the new generation of educators will think of innovative ways to tackle these issue just like how he and his contemporaries had boldly tackled issues in their time.

In the meantime, Mr Manickam is busy toying around with ideas for his next book or as he puts it, ‘the birth of his next child’. We here at 50FACES would like to thank Mr Manickam for all his contributions and wish him every success in his future endeavours!


A dedication to the pioneers in the Indian community.

50Faces brings your stories of ordinary Singaporeans who have contributed to our community and nation building.