Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence, at the NIE Teachers' Investiture Ceremony on Tuesday, 13 July 2010, at 9.30 am, at the Nanyang Auditorium, Nanyang Technological University
Mrs Tan Ching Yee, Chairperson, NIE Council
Professor Lee Sing Kong, Director, NIE
Colleagues and graduands
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my pleasure to be here today to welcome all of you to the now 30,000-strong teaching fraternity in Singapore. Let me also extend my heartiest congratulations to the 399 teachers graduating from the Bachelor of Arts/Science (Education) and the Diploma in Special Education (DISE) programmes today. Your graduation is a well-deserved celebration of your achievements. I am confident that you will live up to the expectations to “Lead, Care and Inspire” future generations of young Singaporeans.
Enabling the development of 21st century competencies
This year, we celebrate our 45th year of independence. Our education system has come a long way since our founding years with disparate vernacular-based, poorly equipped schools that suffered high rates of drop-outs among primary students. Today’s schools have well-equipped facilities and use better audio visual and IT technology. Teachers like you are well-educated and well informed, equipped by NIE with strong fundamentals in how and why students learn. We rank among the top globally for students that complete secondary education with high standards in Maths, Science and languages. But even as our systems improve, so too the demands on and aspirations of our students and their parents. Beyond literacy and numeracy, our students need to be equipped with soft skills. The ability to analyse, communicate and articulate ideas and lead teams is needed and has worth in the global workforce. But apart from its economic value, society also looks to you as teachers to imbue in our young, the right values and attributes of a cultivated society. This is not an unreasonable demand by parents and the public on us. Indeed, it is a compliment because it is rooted in the belief that teachers have an inordinate influence in moulding the next generation—which we ourselves have adopted as our raison-d’être. The Ministry of Education (MOE) together with our partners, NIE, schools and teachers will step up to this challenge.
To set the path, MOE recently introduced the framework for 21st century competencies. These competencies include critical and creative thinking, civic literacy, cross-cultural skills and information and communication skills. Greater emphasis will be placed on these competencies through the academic curriculum and co-curricular activities. This will be carried out in an integrated approach to help children to be confident persons, self-directed learners, active contributors and concerned citizens.
At the core of the framework is the teaching of values. Values define a person’s character and shape one’s beliefs and attitudes. Values also guide how one decides to use his or her knowledge and skills.
MOE can set the framework, NIE can explain the basis for these programs but ultimately whether we succeed is dependent on teachers. We must resource you adequately to accomplish these important goals. As announced, MOE will improve the quality of PAM (PE, Arts and Music) education, natural platforms that allow teachers to build these skills and values. We are increasing our recruitment of PAM teachers and providing avenues for their professional development. Before the end of this year, we will establish the Physical Education and Sports Teacher Academy (PESTA) and the Singapore Teachers’ Academy for the aRts (STAR). For PE teachers, PESTA will be a platform on which they can learn and hone various PE methods, sports concepts and coaching skills. STAR on the other hand will provide art and music teachers an avenue to develop professional excellence. Together, PESTA and STAR will tap on expertise from NIE, tertiary institutions, schools and practitioner communities here and abroad. They will sit within the larger umbrella of professional bodies headed by a Teacher’s Academy to be set up.
NIE too is refining its model for teacher education through TE21 for short. TE21 aims to produce teachers with the values, skills and knowledge necessary to face the challenges of the 21st Century classroom.
NIE’s TE21 is anchored in three values: learner-centredness, teacher identity and service to the profession and the community. Learner-centredness puts the learner at the heart of teachers’ work. It outlines the attributes a teacher must possess to bring about strong learning outcomes in a rapidly changing world. It reminds the teaching fraternity that active collaborations among teachers will help raise teaching standards as a whole.
One notable NIE initiative in values education is the Meranti Project, named after the tree, which produces very hard, weather-resistant, resilient wood. The Project aimed to improve the teaching of NE. Through informal dialogue sessions and ingenious games, the programme provided student teachers with what they really wanted to communicate to students in National Education, and how they could do this more effectively through innovative approaches.
Outstanding Role Models
I said that teachers wield an inordinate influence on students especially in their growing years. Today, we use this occasion to commend Mr Samuel Lim Kok Boon from Swiss Cottage Secondary School, Mr Muhammad Fadylla Rashiman from Boon Lay Garden Primary School and Miss Yuen Chai Lin from Pioneer Secondary School, who will be honoured with the Outstanding Young Educators Award (OYEA) today. These three teachers were chosen because they inspired their students and went many extra miles for them.
I am cheered that young teachers are starting out right. Their talent, academic excellence and passion tells me that the future holds many promises for the teaching fraternity. Let me name two to illustrate.
Miss Yick Jue Ru, will be receiving First Class Honours in the Bachelor of Arts (Education) programme. Jue Ru who specialises in Music, is a talented musician, accomplished in both Chinese and Western music. She has won numerous prizes and performs regularly, whether on piano or yangqin.
Amanda Choo Sze-Min is another example. She will graduate with Honours today as a Science (Education) major in Physical Education. An outstanding sportsperson, Amanda holds our national women’s 100m record at 12.03 second. She has represented Singapore at many international sports events.
I am excited about how much students can learn from these two talented individuals and the influence they will have on their peers and schools. But I am also reminded that a special teacher, one that students remember as having impacted their lives greatly is not only of those with great talents. Students often tell me that a particular encouraging word or deed when it was most needed made a large difference that set them on the right path. But many teachers, when told of this by their students, do not recall these episodes. They say that they do these same acts of encouragement to countless numbers of students. They were just doing their job and honestly are never quite certain if they can make a difference. Therein lies a lesson for us all.
As you set off on your journey ahead, students will become the heart of what you do. Retain the passion and enjoyment as a teacher. School life will place great demands on you but can be intensely rewarding. Lead by example and, at the same time, let your students inspire you. I also want to remind you that you need to balance those goals with your own development, which also includes falling in love, getting married and experiencing the fulfilment of raising families. With that, I would like to congratulate you once again on joining the teaching profession and wish you all a satisfying and fulfilling career ahead!