Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Education, at the NIE Teachers' Investiture Ceremony on Wednesday, 14 July 2010, at 2.30pm, 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 874 teachers graduating from the Postgraduate Diploma in Education Junior College, Secondary and Physical Education Programmes today.
Indeed, this is the first cohort of graduands from the Postgraduate Diploma in Education JC track programme. The PGDE (JC) programme is aimed at equipping teachers with the knowledge and skills required to develop their students’ critical thinking and analytical abilities. I am happy to note that feedback from the first cohort has been positive.
This graduation is a celebration of your achievements and I am confident that you will live up to the expectations outlined in the Teachers’ Vision to Lead, Care and Inspire future generations of young Singaporeans.
Today marks the beginning of an exciting phase for you. With the knowledge gained and the training received, you will begin your career as a teacher—a noble profession that will see you touching the lives of many and moulding the leaders of tomorrow. In your journey ahead, there will be moments of joy just as there will be bouts of challenges. I urge you to persevere, believe in your own abilities and learn from the more experienced teachers. Above all, do not forget the reason for choosing this path, reflect upon and strengthen your commitment to the teaching profession. I encourage you to think about how you can develop a learning environment that is learner-centred, consciously develop your own sense of professional identity as a teacher and foster a spirit of apprenticeship and mentorship among the community of teachers in your school and beyond.
Enabling the development of 21st century competencies
Our education system has come a long way since the nascent days of nationhood some 50 years ago. It is a good education system, with a rigorous curriculum, innovative methodology and a dedicated cadre of educators. But our system must continue to evolve to respond to the changes in our environment. As global connectivity increases in the new economy, it is vital that our children are equipped not only with the know-how for their academic subjects, but also with social aptitude—the ability to communicate and articulate ideas, and the confidence to do so. It is with this in mind that the Ministry of Education 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 our children become confident persons, self-directed learners, active contributors and concerned citizens.
We have identified the areas of Physical Education, Art and Music (collectively called PAM) to be of greater emphasis in the development of our children. PAM will help our children develop their physical attributes, creative and expressive abilities and shape their personal, cultural and social identity. This is why the Ministry is strengthening the quality of PAM education. We are increasing our recruitment of PAM teachers. We are also working to build up our teaching capability. 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. Teachers in PAM can look forward to greater professional development opportunities through PESTA and STAR .
One of the strengths of the Singapore education system is that we are well-aligned—MOE, NIE and our schools. As MOE focuses on values and 21st century competencies, NIE is working on a new model for teacher education for the 21st century, or TE21 (pronounced as T-E-twenty-one) for short. TE21 aims to produce teachers with the values, skills and knowledge necessary to face the needs of the 21st Century classroom.
NIE’s TE21 is anchored on 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; Teacher Identity develops attributes a teacher must have to bring about strong learning outcomes; Service to the profession and the community spells out teachers’ commitment to their profession through active collaborations and commitment to be a better member of the community as well.
One notable NIE initiative in values education is the Meranti Project. The project got its name from the Meranti tree, which produces very hard, weather-resistant, resilient wood. The Meranti Project is a personal and professional development programme tailored to help student teachers develop better self-awareness and provide them with a better understanding of what National Education is about. Through the Project, teachers will learn innovative ways of teaching National Education, better ways of working with diversity in the classroom and strategies for coping with the challenges of the teaching profession. Introduced for degree students in 2009, the Meranti Project will be introduced to all of NIE’s programmes from July 2010 onwards. These programmes in values education, like the Meranti Project, will help prepare our teachers in their delivery of 21st century competencies to their students.
Outstanding Role Models
At the core of the framework for 21st century competencies 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. As members of the teaching profession, you will be entrusted with the duty to help children develop the right values. Teachers are role models for our children. With more parents spending more hours away from home at work, your role as a role model is becoming more important than before. I, therefore, urge you to uphold the high professional standard and code of conduct that is expected of teachers. You are moulding the future generation.
As increasing emphasis is placed on providing a holistic education for our young, it is heartening to see that some of our graduands today have gone beyond the pursuit of academic excellence to demonstrate through their involvement in sports and community service the same strong values we hope to impart to our young.
One example is Caroline Hew, who demonstrated resilience and strength of spirit when she joined a youth expedition with her NIE colleagues last year to the Sikkim Himalayas to conduct a trail cleaning project. Caroline impressed her expedition leaders during the arduous trek up to their destination some 4500m above sea level. They noted how she inspired her team mates with her positive attitude, words of encouragement and acts of altruism.
Caroline is also involved in several community projects aimed at providing academic assistance to under-privileged children as well as mentally disabled children.
With the inaugural Youth Olympic Games just round the corner, I would also like to commend three beginning teachers for their active participation in sports. First, Ashley Ong, who represented Singapore in the 9th World Dragon Boat Racing Championship in Prague last year.
Second, Chen Hui Fen, who was part of the Singapore Netball Team which came in 2nd at the 7th Asian Netball Championship held in Kuala Lumpur in June last year.
Third, Dinah Chan Siew Kheng, who represented Singapore at the prestigious Asian Cycling Championships held in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates in April this year.
These are examples of our teachers pursuing their sports with passion and perseverance. They will no doubt inspire their students and peers to reach for their goals and dreams in life. I urge you to make a difference in the lives of your students so that they may, in turn, make a difference in the lives of those around them.
With that, I would like to congratulate you once again on joining the teaching profession and wish you a satisfying and fulfilling career ahead!