SPEECH BY MR THARMAN SHANMUGARATNAM, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, AT THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION INVESTITURE CEREMONY FOR THE 2004 NATIONAL DAY AWARDS ON MONDAY, 7 FEB 2005 AT 3.30 PM AT THE SUNTEC SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION & EXHIBITION CENTRE
Mr Chan Soo Sen,
Mr Hawazi Daipi,
General Lim Chuan Poh,
Mrs Tan Ching Yee,
Ms Seah Jiak Choo,
Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen
2 This afternoon, 702 officers will step forward to receive the Commendation, Efficiency and Long Service Medals. 88 of them will be presented the Commendation Medal for demonstrating significant competencies and exemplary performance in work. The Efficiency Medal will be presented to another 66 officers for their diligence, enthusiasm and dedication to duty. The Long Service Medal will be presented to 548 officers in recognition of their 25 or more years of loyal and committed work in education.
3 Apart from the 702 recipients this afternoon, 52 other officers from the education fraternity were presented their National Day Awards by the President in November last year. Heading the list of Singaporeans receiving national honours was Mr Wee Heng Tin, our former Director-General of Education, who was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in recognition of his major contributions to the transformation of the Singapore education system. In addition, the Public Administration Medal (Gold) was presented to Mr Low Wong Fook, Principal of Singapore Polytechnic; and Professor Lim Mong King, Deputy President of NTU for their substantial contributions to the development of tertiary education.
4 On behalf of the Government and the Ministry, I would like to congratulate all our National Day award recipients. Thank you for your valued contributions to the nation and to the Education Service.
Teachers’ Holistic Challenge
6 Our schools have the responsibility of preparing the next generation of Singaporeans to secure a rewarding future, and to preserve a dynamic, closely-knit society.
7 It is, as always, a holistic task and illustrates why the teaching profession bears a great responsibility. Besides providing a sound academic education, we have to nurture in our young strong moral values and strength of character. It is only through a holistic education that we can prepare them to deal with life’s inevitable challenges, face up to the difficulties that will crop up from time to time, and excel as a people. And prepare them to take a keen and continuing interest in the community they live in and the world around them, and live their lives with compassion.
8 The recent Tsunami disaster was a good example of the role teachers play in helping students make sense of real life developments and respond to them. In schools around the island, teachers helped pupils to understand the tsunami disaster and express their thoughts in drawings, poems, and reflections, often very creatively. Teachers and students also worked together to help the tsunami disaster victims more directly, by packing bags of relief supplies or items for school children, and other activities.
9 One teacher, at CHIJ St Theresa Convent, expressed very well the spirit in many schools as they went about the exercise. In her reflections, she said that “a camaraderie born of a shared intensity of purpose among students, teachers, public volunteers and army volunteers, soon developed….Calloused, blistered hands, minor injuries and aches, fatigue and stuffy conditions all took a backseat to the needs that had to be met for the sake of the survivors….”
10 Across our schools, we have seen examples of how teachers have helped our young understand a real life situation, and nurtured in them the desire to contribute to those around them. They have taught our pupils powerful life lessons, and will I am sure continue to do so.
Experience as a Key Foundation
12 As we seek to meet new challenges, we are assured that we have a vast pool of experience and knowledge to tap on. Among the seven hundred plus recipients present today alone, we have no less than fifteen thousand years of accumulated experience in education.
13 Within each of you is a fund of knowledge and wisdom that must be harnessed so that it can be passed on to the next generation of teachers. This fund of knowledge is not only about know-how in teaching but also the ethos and values of the Education Service.
14 As we expand the service and more young teachers flow into our schools, our experienced and committed officers play an invaluable role, in guiding their colleagues, giving them tips on how best to motivate different groups of students, working together with them to bring about innovations in teaching, and giving them confidence to persevere when things do not work out as hoped. This wisdom and experience, coupled with enthusiasm and the infusion of fresh perspectives in our teaching force, forms a potent combination. It will help us greatly as we move forward and find new ways to prepare our students for the future.
Enhancing the Teaching Track
16 We have also introduced different career tracks in the Service, to cater for officers who want to pursue a career in teaching, school leadership or specialist areas. The three career tracks recognise the fact that our teachers have different skills and aspirations, even as they are united in their desire to do the best for our pupils. Officers on the leadership, specialist and teaching tracks all contribute, in their own unique ways, to the Education Service.
17 Our Senior Teachers and Master Teachers represent the pinnacle appointments for officers on the teaching track. They are recognised for their contributions as highly effective teachers and entrusted with the responsibility of mentoring their colleagues and improving pedagogy and teaching pactices in our schools. Since 2001, we have appointed 8 Master Teachers and 637 Senior Teachers.
19 It is important for officers with the passion to contribute more in the area of teaching to come forward to take up the challenges of Senior Teacher and Master Teacher appointments. These are key positions in the Service. They are key agents in mentoring our new teachers and getting innovations going on the ground, in pedagogical practices and curriculum delivery.
20 To encourage this, we are introducing several refinements to give greater recognition and better development opportunities for our officers in the Teaching Track from April this year.
a) ST Appointment
b) ST Responsibility Allowance
c) ST Positions for Open Posting
24 In addition, classroom teachers can apply to be considered for appointment to Senior Teacher positions, in their own or other schools, under the open posting framework. This gives teachers more options in planning their careers.
d) New Milestone Training Programmes
26 We will keep up our emphasis on professional development, across all levels of the Education Service. No one, no matter how experienced, can do without continuous development and regular exposure to new experiences. That’s how we stay fit and confident, keep asking ourselves questions and looking out for new ideas, and help our schools keep moving up.
27 To facilitate the development of our Senior Teachers, we introduced a 4-week Senior Teachers’ Programme in July last year. The feedback from the first group of 27 participants was very positive. The course will be scaled up next year. By 2008, we plan to train all Senior Teachers upon appointment.
28 In addition, we will introduce a new course, the Advanced Senior Teachers’ Programme, from this year. This new programme will reinforce the skills of our experienced teachers in pedagogy and research, open up new ideas and approaches in teaching, as well as add to their toolkit as coaches and mentors.
e) NIE Exposure
31 I would like once again to extend my warmest congratulations to all of our recipients. We are where we are today because of all your commitment, passion, good hearts and sense of responsibility. I thank you for all your efforts and tireless dedication all these years. Keep up the good work for Singapore.