Speeches

Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister of Education and Second Minister for Defence, at the 2008 Teaching Scholarships Presentation Ceremony on Friday, 1st August 2008, at 3.00pm at Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre

Rear-Admiral Lui Tuck Yew
Senior Minister of State
Ministry of Education & Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts

Ms Grace Fu
Senior Minister of State
Ministry of National Development & Ministry of Education

Mr Masagos Zulkifli
Senior Parliamentary Secretary
Ministry of Education & Ministry of Home Affairs

Mr Lim Biow Chuan
Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC and Member of the GPC for Education

Mrs Tan Ching Yee
Permanent Secretary

Ms Yeoh Chee Yan
Second Permanent Secretary

Ms Seah Jiak Choo
Director-General of Education

Colleagues, Teaching Scholars, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to be here with you at our annual Teaching Scholarships Presentation Ceremony. Let me extend my heartiest congratulations to all Teaching Scholars and Award recipients on your achievements. I am glad that your parents and loved ones, as well as your principals and teachers, are here to witness this memorable occasion with you.

Strategic Value of Teaching Scholarships and Awards

MOE is giving out a total of 300 teaching scholarships and awards this year. Six of you have been awarded the prestigious Overseas Merit Scholarships for Teaching by the Public Service Commission. 294 of you will receive MOE teaching scholarships and awards. These scholarships and awards reflect MOE”s belief that bright and capable leaders are needed to produce a high-quality teaching force. MOE will therefore continue to invest in attracting and retaining top students to enter and stay in the teaching force.

Beyond attracting bright students, we also want our future leaders in education to be exposed to top institutions in different environments. Their joint perspectives will ensure that we adopt the best practices from different countries. The many countries that our scholars will be studying in reflect this openness to accept new ideas for improvement. This year, we have 17 scholars who have been awarded scholarships to pursue their studies in countries such as Japan (3), China (9), Germany (1), France (1) and Australia (3). 52 scholars have been awarded scholarships to the United Kingdom while 6 scholars have decided to study in the United States.

Leaders for Education

In Singapore, where our most precious asset is our human resource, we rightly place great emphasis on education. We invest heavily in education and have succeeded in producing an education system that is well regarded internationally. We are respected for our academic rigour and for the fact that we develop our students holistically. But MOE cannot afford to stand still and rest on its laurels. We will always have to evolve continually to meet the fresh educational challenges for each new generation.

If we want to maintain our edge as a top-quality system, we must have exceptional leaders and good teachers to drive progress in schools and take the Education Service forward. As recipients of MOE’s scholarships and awards, you have been carefully selected and represent the next generation of teachers-cum-leaders in education. No education system can rise above the quality of its teachers. But a quality teaching force does not come about by chance or mere wishes. It requires a carefully planned and structured program that begins from the selection process of teachers to the grooming of future leaders in education. MOE has this in place. Let me share some of these aspects with you.

Teaching Internship Programme

To identify those with a passion to teach and help others learn. MOE recently started the Teaching Internship Programme (TIP) for “A” level graduands in the first quarter of this year and posted 93 interns to 44 schools. In this programme, the teaching interns co-teach in the classroom under the guidance of experienced teacher-mentors. I am pleased to say that both the interns and our schools have benefited from this programme. Here today with us are 29 of the teaching interns. In fact, 20 of them will be receiving their teaching scholarships and 9 the MOE Teaching Award.

A teaching intern at Ngee Ann Secondary, Khadijah Bte Aziz Rahman will be receiving a Teaching Scholarship (Local) to read Chemistry and Mathematics at NUS. Another intern, Stanley Ang Kok Wah, was strongly recommended by his teacher-mentors at Commonwealth Secondary for a teaching scholarship. Stanley’s mentors fed back to us that Stanley had shown a very positive work attitude and was extremely keen to learn and to better himself. He also showed care and concern for the students he taught. Stanley will be receiving the Overseas Merit Scholarship for Teaching and will study Economics at Cambridge University in the UK.

Diverse Learning Opportunities

MOE aims to provide our teaching scholars and award holders with many learning opportunities. I encourage you to take part in these programmes during the course of your study. There are overseas exchange programmes, twinning and immersion activities, and double degree programmes, just to name a few. We sponsor our teaching scholars and award recipients on student exchange programmes so that they can spend one or two semesters of their undergraduate studies in a partner university overseas. The exchange programme opens up many new academic and enrichment opportunities to our scholars. Some of them have participated in exchange programmes to the UK, USA, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Australia; others have ventured to countries like France, Korea, Netherlands, Denmark and Norway for greater diversity of experiences and learning.

Insights from Overseas School Attachment

We also encourage our teaching scholars to take up an Overseas School Attachment. This year, Angela Tan, a Year 3 Local-Overseas Merit Teaching Scholar, participated in a 2-week attachment at Ba Yi Middle School in Beijing, China. She had the opportunity to observe how lessons were conducted by her colleagues at Ba Yi and was struck by the strong rapport between teachers and students. According to Angela, the teachers at Ba Yi actively engaged the students on a personal level and were generous in their praise. They took care to commend students for good work, even if it was for a simple grammar exercise. Angela shared that the students, as a result of such positive reinforcement, opened up more to the teachers. Angela also taught the students English Language and Literature and conducted co-curricular activities for them. What was particularly illuminating for Angela was the high level of motivation shown by the students. They were tremendously eager to learn and this proved to be a source of motivation for the teachers and for Angela herself.

Immersion in Local School Environment

Apart from the student exchange programmes and overseas attachments, you will also participate in a 3-week School Attachment to a secondary school as part of your mid course programme. Through the attachment, you will be updated on the latest educational initiatives and developments in our schools. You will also get to witness first-hand policy implementation on the ground. During last year’s School Attachment Programme, a group of scholars attached to Fajar Secondary School were asked to look into customizing an Elective Module (EM) package for the school. The Elective Modules are meant to broaden the learning experiences of our Normal Academic (NA) and Normal Technical (NT) students. These scholars conducted a survey to better understand the students’ interests and needs before working with ITE Education Services to design the module. Fajar Secondary School found their proposal practical and is looking into implementing their recommendations.

Sponsoring Postgraduate Studies

The learning does not stop after you graduate. MOE also provides Masters’ sponsorship for selected scholars. This year, 9 scholars and award holders have been awarded the MOE Master’s Sponsorship, while 18 were allowed to continue with their postgraduate studies before serving their bond for their first degree. For example, Miss Sharon Khoo, a recipient of the Teaching Scholarship (Overseas) in 2005, will be pursuing her Masters of Education in Mind, Brain and Education at Harvard University in the USA under MOE Sponsorship before coming back to teach.

Grooming Future Leaders in Education

Over the next few years, all of you will be caught up in pursuing your undergraduate education. But I also want to sketch for you, what you can look forward to when you return. MOE has in place a structured framework to develop our potential leaders called the Future Leaders Programme (or the FLP). FLP aims to groom and develop our best and brightest talents to prepare them for key leadership appointments in the Education Service. Through FLP, those who show leadership potential are tracked early and given opportunities to take on higher level appointments and challenging assignments to stretch their abilities and broaden their perspectives.

Responsibilities as teaching scholars

Today’s ceremony marks the beginning of your journey to be teachers and leaders in education to nurture the next generation of Singaporeans. As role models for our students, teachers are expected to demonstrate exemplary conduct and a love for learning. As teaching scholars and award holders, much more will be expected of you. No matter whether you are studying in Singapore or abroad, remember that you do not just represent yourself or your family, but also Singapore and the Singapore Education Service. As you begin this journey, I hope that you will fulfill all your aspirations and enjoy fully the golden opportunities ahead. For many of you, this will also be a journey in self-discovery. I hope that you will realize your potential and become well-rounded individuals and better teachers.

Conclusion

Let me once again extend my warmest congratulations to you and your parents. I wish you all the best in your studies and very much look forward to your return as part of MOE’s teaching fraternity. Thank you.