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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


Dr Ng Eng Hen,
Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Education,

Mr Chan Soo Sen,
Minister of State,

Mr Hawazi Daipi,
Senior Parliamentary Secretary,

General Lim Chuan Poh,
Permanent Secretary,

Mrs Tan Ching Yee,
Second Permanent Secretary,

Ms Seah Jiak Choo,
Director-General of Education,

Award Recipients,

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen


1      We gather here today to honour our officers who are receiving the National Day Awards for their commitment and invaluable contributions to the task of educating successive generations of young Singaporeans.

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
5      Over the years, we have built an education system that is held in respect all around the world.  It has equipped Singaporeans with the capacity to excel and to build a strong community.  Our education system is also our key asset now, as Singapore looks to the future and interacts with a new and more complex world.

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
11     Our aims in education can only be achieved with quality and committed teachers.  Our past efforts in developing the profession, and in putting in place capable leaders who are now pillars of our Education system, have put us in good stead for the future.

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
15     We introduced Edu-Pac (Education Service Professional Development And Career Plan) in 2001, as a package of initiatives to transform the careers of our education officers and help retain our good and highly committed officers.  This includes the Enhanced Performance Management System or EPMS, which is a tool designed to help officers develop themselves professionally and improve their key competencies.  The EPMS framework has already been rolled out for school management in 2003, and will be introduced for all teachers from this year.

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.
 
18     From all accounts, I must say our Senior and Masters Teachers have done an excellent job in guiding and helping our beginning teachers.  One of our recipients today, Mrs Chua Swee Tieu from Greenridge Primary School, who has 41 years of experience, has been a senior teacher since 1998.  She has not only mentored many beginning teachers but sought to engage them in innovative projects, an example of which was the making of game sets for the learning of English language which was very well received by both teachers and pupils.  This project was one of the projects showcased at the Ideas in Action 2004 event organized by Citigroup, the Learning Society and MOE.  Another recipient, Miss Lim Seow Keong, a senior teacher with Anglo Chinese School (Junior), has set up processes and a buddy system to ensure regular consultation and monitoring of the development of beginning teachers.  Together with 3 other senior teachers in her cluster, she ran a workshop for aspiring senior and Master 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
21     First, the Ministry will allow more experienced teachers to take up Senior Teacher appointments, without the need to be promoted to the SEO1 substantive grade.  This is a similar arrangement to that on the leadership track, where officers can be appointed as Heads of Department, Subject Heads, or Level Heads after sufficient years of experience and exposure in our schools.  Teachers will of course still go through accreditation to be appointed as a Senior Teacher.  This enhancement will provide younger officers with an opportunity to make significant contributions and build up their portfolios of experience earlier in their careers.

b) ST Responsibility Allowance
22     With this refinement, Schools will be able to appoint younger teachers to Senior Teacher positions where they have developed and demonstrated the necessary teaching capabilities and are keen to contribute more broadly on the teaching track.  Like officers on the Leadership Track, GEO teachers who are appointed to Senior Teacher positions will receive an allowance in recognition of the larger responsibilities that they have taken on.

c) ST Positions for Open Posting
23     In addition, schools can also advertise their Senior Teacher vacancies using the open posting framework for teachers.  This is a win-win-win situation for schools, teachers and students.  For the schools, the open system allows them to attract a wider pool of candidates, with greater likelihood of a good match for the school’s needs.  For the teachers, this will give them greater control over their careers.  Senior Teachers will now have the additional option of sharing their expertise in a new school, which can give them opportunities for further professional development.  Students on their part will benefit from a leveling up of teacher expertise and skills over time, with the greater mobility of outstanding teachers across schools.

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
25     Professional development of teachers remains a key feature of our education system, and a strength that few countries can match.  Even in Finland, which I visited last week with a group of Principals and MOE officials, and which is reknown for its exceptionally well qualified teaching service, educationists are concerned about limited opportunities for professional development.

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
29     Finally, to provide our leading teachers with experiences outside the school and exposure to research in pedagogy and learning, we will also offer more opportunities for Senior and Master Teachers to engage in research and teaching stints in the National Institute of Education.

Conclusion
30     In conclusion, let me say that we are putting these enhancements in place because we believe that the teaching service is a challenging and critical profession.  An education system can only be as great as the teachers who are committed to its calling and who light the fire of learning in our students.  That is why we have to keep listening to our teachers, leverage on their strengths, and help them develop their potential as professionals.

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.

 



 
 

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