Speech by Mr Masagos Zulkifli BMM, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Home Affairs, at NorthLight School’s Alumni Homecoming Event on Saturday, 22 May 2010, at 9.30am

Mr Heng Guan Teck,
Deputy CEO (Academic), ITE & Member of NorthLight School’s Board of Directors

Ms Euleen Goh,
Chairman, Board of Governors for NorthLight School

Mrs Chua Yen Ching,

Principal, NorthLight School

Partners of NorthLight School,

Staff and alumni,

Ladies and Gentlemen.


Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to be invited to NorthLight School’s first alumni reunion. It was back in 2007 when NorthLight was started and an enhanced vocational programme was offered to students. I had met you then, as the pioneer batch of students in Northlight and four years on, you are now proud alumni. Let me first congratulate you for successfully completing your studies here.

In 2009, two years after the setting up of Northlight, MOE also established Assumption Pathway School. These two specialised schools share a common mission — to help students who can benefit from a more customised hands-on learning approach and to give them the best chance to succeed.

Concurrently, MOE and our schools have also taken further steps to reduce attrition of students during the transition from primary to secondary school. We have provided additional manpower resources for schools, stepped up efforts to identify and monitor students who are at risk of dropping out, strengthened student engagement, and established closer partnerships with other relevant agencies and self-help groups to support these students.


What have these efforts achieved so far? The overall attrition rate, or the percentage of the P1 cohort who do not complete secondary education, has fallen to around 1.2%. This means that more students are staying in school. In the case of NorthLight, 86% of your cohort has completed your education at NorthLight. Students at Northlight have benefited from an engaging and holistic programme, and picked up critical skills through the work attachment. This is an encouraging start for the school.

What were the key factors for success? You, the alumni, provide the best testimony on the following:

  • the care and guidance of your dedicated teachers;
  • the school’s focus on nurturing emotional resilience and cultivating a sense of belonging, which has helped students to stay in school; and
  • the customised and practice-based curriculum, which has helped to engage pupils in learning.

I am also happy to hear the many encouraging comments that visitors have shared about NorthLight. One senior teacher remarked that “NorthLight shows to the world that in every child there is a star”, while a visitor from the United States wrote in her reflection, “Today I visited an amazing and wonderful home which the children called school”.

On this note, I would like to acknowledge the significant contributions of NorthLight’s partners and board members, who have been very supportive of the school. In particular, they have helped secure the work attachments which are an integral part of the NorthLight programme.

Those of you who have gone through these attachments are better prepared for employment or further education at the ITE. More than 70% of your cohort has obtained the ITE Skills Certificate, or “ISC”.

Let me cite the example of your fellow alumnus, Lim Ting Wei. He is working today and unable to join us. When Ting Wei joined the school after failing PSLE a second time, he had lost confidence and hope in himself. He had also developed a fear of Mathematics. However with persistent encouragement and guidance from his teachers, he overcame his fear. He even took charge of cashiering duties in the school co-operative and participated in various fund-raising projects with the school’s external partners. During his second year at NorthLight, Ting Wei also volunteered to join in an overseas community service project to Laos to help the less privileged. For his ISC in Retail Operations, Ting Wei worked hard and did very well. He is currently pursuing a NITEC course in Retail in ITE Clementi while working part-time to support himself and his family.

Continuing Support for Alumni

NorthLight’s efforts however do not end at graduation. I am heartened by the post-graduation support initiatives in place. For example, NorthLight organises upgrading classes in the evenings, and also provides job placement and mentoring. These are valued by the alumni.

Khairunnisah binte Hajar Mydin is your fellow alumna who finds it worthwhile to return to NorthLight for these evening classes. She obtained her ISC in Retail Operations and is now working 6 days a week in NTUC Fairprice. Despite her work schedule, she rushes back to school twice a week to attend the Workplace Literacy course from 6 to 9pm, after finishing her work at 4pm. Her positive attitude and strong character is commendable and will put her in good stead for work and life.

The “N-Reach” Alumni Portal which I will launch shortly is another innovation by the school to help you stay connected with the school and with each other. Through the “N-Reach” Portal, you can provide feedback to the school on the relevance of what you have learnt here for ITE and the workplace. You can also use the forum to keep in touch with former schoolmates and sign up for evening courses.


All in all, I am gratified by the progress made by NorthLight since 2007 and what it has done for all of you, its pioneer batch of students. I commend the school’s board members, ITE, Mrs Chua, all the staff at NorthLight, and the school’s various partners, who have each contributed in their own way towards NorthLight’s success.

As I launch the NorthLight “N-Reach” Portal today, I would like to encourage alumni and students to never stop learning, and to work hard to overcome any challenge that may crop up. As the theme of today’s event aptly puts it, there is “no mountain too high.” With perseverance, you can go the distance. With this, I wish you every success in the years ahead. I hope you will have a meaningful session today.

Thank you.