Opening Address by Mr Masagos Zulkifli BMM, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Home Affairs, at the Launch of the Education and Career Guidance Portal, ecareers.sg, for Primary Schools, on Wednesday, 24 February 2010 at 3.00 pm at St. Andrew’s Junior School, Singapore
Ms Sum Chee Wah
Director, Education Programmes Division, Ministry of Education
Dr Scott Solberg
Director, Wisconsin Careers, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Principals, Vice-Principals, Teachers
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good afternoon, and welcome to the launch of the Education and Career Guidance portal for Primary Schools. The theme for today’s launch is “I dream a Dream…”. For those of us who watched Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent last year, we may have felt that lump in our throats when she sang the song “I Dreamed a Dream”. Susan started singing when she was 12 and she dreamt of being a successful professional singer like Elaine Page, a multi-award-winning English singer-actress best known for her work in music theatre. Susan’s dream finally came true for her last year. To those of us whose childhood dreams have faded over time, her story is an inspiration that life still holds many opportunities.
How many of you had dreams when you were young and have strived hard to achieve that dream?
We too want our children to dream about their future — of what they can be when they grow up. We want to stretch their imagination and expand their sense of wonderment to the world around them — a world of possibilities and hope. We want to provide them with opportunities to realise their goals and aspirations. And this is why we built this Education and Career Guidance (ECG) portal for our Primary School students.
Why is it important to start developing career awareness in our young right from primary school? After all, haven’t we often viewed ECG as synonymous with the graduating students of our secondary and pre-university schools? The focus of ECG in schools in the past has also been on just-in-time preparation for students to make post-secondary education and career choices.
Barbara McGowan, a Senior Fellow at the National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling (NICEC) in the United Kingdom, has found that “within 3 years of leaving primary school, children will be asked to make decisions. The decisions they make will be influenced by what they think they already know about themselves, about work and about the job roles available to them: decisions that will influence their subsequent life chances.”
Another research conducted by Dr. Anne Blackhurst and her colleagues on children’s understanding of vocational preparation requirements also found that “the late elementary school is a particularly opportune time to provide career education.”
Our children are faced with numerous options post-primary school. They have to decide which secondary school to go to, and there are now so many choices and pathways — a mainstream secondary school, an independent school, or even a specialised independent school. When they get to the end of secondary 2, they have to make a choice of what subjects to take at upper secondary level, which influences what they are able to study at the post-secondary levels. This is turn, determines the career path that they take.
With the multitude of options available, and decisions that will determine their future life-path, it is critical that our children make informed choices. To do so, as educators and parents, we need to broaden the horizons of our young children and to expose them to options other than the ones that they commonly hear about or see. We need to help them discover themselves, their interests and their strengths, and help them relate to the world out there.
The ECG portal for primary schools that you are going to see today has been uniquely created for primary school students. By providing children with the opportunity to learn about various occupations and industries from young, they will learn to set goals and plan ahead for their future. This will help to motivate them to work purposefully towards fulfilling their aspirations. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
HOW PARENTS AND SIGNIFICANT OTHERS CAN BE INVOLVED
While the ECG portal will be an effective resource to help our children’s self-discovery, and provide them with information about education and career options, it is the human touch provided by teachers, parents and other significant others that will leave the deepest impact on the child.
Parents play a large part in influencing their children’s decisions. I believe we have heard of families of lawyers, doctors or teachers. I have also heard of an officer who aspired to be a teacher since primary school because she was inspired by her favourite aunt who was, and still is, a teacher. Her story is not unique. How many of us here can relate to having role models in our lives who have inspired us to choose the path that we are now on?
Hence, it is of utmost importance that parents play an active role in their child’s education and career development, not by determining our children’s choices for them, but by facilitating their discovery and decision-making process. And parents can do this by getting more involved, by gaining a deeper understanding of their child’s strengths and interests, and, encouraging them to dream their own dreams.
USE OF THE ECG PORTAL
Mrs Choy Luan Kheng, parent of a primary 6 child at Meridian Primary School and member of the school’s Parent Support Group, appreciated the opportunity to learn along with her son when she tested out the ECG portal in January. She said, “The excitement came when my child gained a better understanding of his strengths that can help prepare him for the different industries and job opportunities.” She was enthusiastic about the ‘Compare Schools’ feature, and said, “I can advise my child to make wiser choices of schools by comparing the different secondary schools, like their entrance aggregate, subjects offered, co-curricular activities and so on.”
Nurul Fadhylla Bte Zahari, a primary 6 student leader who had great fun exploring the different features in the ECG portal with her mother, has this to add, “It is a fun way to search for information. I can explore my dream school and plan ways to enter my school of choice.”
Mr Wilson Ng, Head of the Pupil Development department at St. Anthony’s Primary School, also tried out the portal with his graduating pupils last December. He was heartened to notice that the conversations of his pupils, who are now in Secondary 1, became more future-oriented after using the portal. He added that the portal was a good resource for students to learn to set goals and to work towards them.
Most of us would have had the experience of having to entertain the numerous questions our young children have about the world. We want to encourage that curiosity and keep that sense of wonder alive. We want to tell our children that it is okay to explore the limitless options in the world out there.
Teachers and parents can use the ECG portal in this exploration together with our students. There will be a total of 300 occupations to learn about in the portal. I am sure that is a lot more than many of us knew of when we were in primary 5 and 6.
Some of us may remember playing dress-up when we were young, or perhaps have seen our children doing so. Role-playing is one important way which young children learn, and the ECG portal also provides an avenue for students to dress up their ‘avatars’, or online representation of themselves, with tools from the many different occupations. Our children can be a chef one day, a pilot another day, an astronomer on a third day.
I hope that you are as excited as I am about the ECG portal for primary schools, and the guidance that teachers and parents can collaborate to give our children. While we encourage them to dream dreams, we must also teach them the skills to bring these dreams to fruition. We must teach our children to develop a sense of ownership and a future orientation so that they can achieve their dreams. We must rekindle that spark in their eyes when they talk about what they can be when they grow up.
I would like to leave you with this quote from the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson: “We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.”