Speeches

Speech By Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Education, at the Caring Teacher Awards 2010 on Thursday, 8 April 2010, at the NTU Alumni Club

Professor Lee Sing Kong,
Director, National Institute of Education,

Mr Loh Pin Chuan, Manager,
Public & Government Affairs, ExxonMobil Asia Pacific,

Dr Nick Aplin,
Chairman of the Caring Teacher Awards Organising Committee,

Colleagues,

Students,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here today at the presentation ceremony of the Eighth Caring Teacher Awards.

21st Century Competencies

Much attention has been placed on the education landscape in recent years. We have taken steps to introduce greater diversity and flexibility into the system in order to give our students more choices, and to allow them to progress according to their individual abilities. With greater diversity and flexibility, our schools have also been given greater autonomy so that they can respond quickly and effectively to the profile of their students.

As we reposition and reorient our schools to meet the demands of the future, we must provide our students with the core knowledge and skills that will be relevant in the future. We must instil in them the physical, emotional and mental attributes that will position them to take advantage of the new opportunities arising in an increasingly globalised world.

MOE recently announced a new framework to enhance the development of 21st century competencies in our students. These competencies underpin the holistic education that our schools will provide in order to better enable our young to thrive in the fast–changing and highly connected world of tomorrow. They include critical and creative thinking skills, cross–cultural skills, civic literacy, and information and communication skills.

At the core of the framework are the values that define a person’s character. Knowledge and skills must, of course, be anchored by values for they shape a person’s beliefs, attitudes and actions. They are therefore central to our approach in nurturing 21st century competencies in our young. In a globalised world, amidst an onslaught of competing images and ideas, it is easy for our young to lose a sense of who they are and what they stand for. Our students require sound guidance, not only in the pursuit of academic excellence, but also in adhering to basic moral and social values and principles.

The Role of the Teacher in the 21st Century

In the age of the Internet, the role of a teacher has also changed. He is no longer the sole purveyor of information, though core knowledge of his subject remains vital. Rather, the role of a teacher has shifted towards that of a facilitator who passes on ways of learning, guides his students across the often overwhelming terrain of the information superhighway, and cultivates his students an open and yet discriminate mind towards multiple versions of facts. Yet, despite these changes, the central mission of teaching remains constant — to develop every student to his or her fullest potential and to care for the welfare and wellbeing of every one of them. Teachers remain at the very heart of educating a child.

Teachers, not textbooks or exams or syllabuses, are ultimately what makes education succeed. And the teachers who make a difference to their students’ lives are those who demonstrate care and concern for their students as individuals, who help them up when they fall, and give them the confidence they need to beat seemingly insurmountable odds. The best teachers are also the most caring teachers. They are sometimes most strict with their students as they care for the wellbeing of the students. Caring teachers help their students develop the right values and attitudes through personal interactions. Their students look up to them as role models. The young take the cue from them in terms of their beliefs, values and hopes. They are the ones who are able to identify and harness the innate abilities of each and every one of their students, who never give up on even the most recalcitrant, and who enables and empowers them.

Today, we honour 15 individuals who have been nominated by their peers and students as Caring Teachers. With a strong sense of mission, these teachers have gone beyond the call of duty, expending time and energy in order to help their students realise their potential. They have shared the wisdom gained from their own life experiences selflessly, in order to help students overcome personal adversities and challenges. They lead by example, serving as beacons of inspiration not only to the many students who lives they have touched, but also to their fellow teachers.

I would like to acknowledge in particular our three National Award winners— Mrs Rosiah Giri from Da Qiao Primary School, who devotes time and energy beyond her normal duties to looking after the needs of students from disadvantaged backgrounds; Mr Chan Kar Hong from Kent Ridge Secondary School, whose dedication to his students as a counsellor in the pastoral care programme has helped them confront their personal challenges with courage and resilience; and Mdm Wong Kwai Yeok, more fondly known as Mrs June Fong to her students, who attest to her sincerity in reaching out to them and helping them in times of need.

My congratulations also to the 12 recipients of the Award of Commendation. You have all demonstrated that caring teachers can make a difference in our young people’s lives.

Conclusion

On a final note, I would like to thank ExxonMobil Singapore for their continuing support of the Caring Teacher Awards. You have helped make possible a very meaningful award.

I wish all of you every success in continuing the excellent work.

Thank you.