Speeches

Speech by Mrs Tan Ching Yee, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, at the NIE Teachers' Investiture Ceremony on Thursday, 15 July 2010, at 2.30pm, at the Nanyang Auditorium, Nanyang Technological University

Professor Lee Sing Kong, Director, NIE

Distinguished guests

Colleagues and graduands

Ladies and gentlemen

Good afternoon

It is my pleasure to be here today to welcome all of you to the now 30,000-strong teaching fraternity in Singapore. My heartiest congratulations to the 713 teachers who will be graduating today from the Post Graduate Diploma Education (Primary) programme and the Diploma programmes. I have no doubt that you will all live up to the expectations outlined in the Teachers’ Vision, which is to Lead, Care and Inspire future generations of young Singaporeans.

Today marks the start of an exciting journey 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, 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 the global connectivity increases in the new economy, it is vital that our children are equipped with not only 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 (MOE) 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, which 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 these desired 21st century competencies and values.

Regardless of the subject you teach, there will be many opportunities for you to do so. However, certain subject areas – Physical Education, Art and Music (collectively called PAM) – lend themselves particularly well to the development of 21st century competencies. PE, Art and Music are integral to helping students develop physical robustness, enhance their 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 teachers’ 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. Together, PESTA and STAR will tap on expertise from NIE, tertiary institutions, schools and practitioner communities here and abroad.

One of the strengths of the Singapore education system is that we are well-aligned – MOE, NIE and our schools. Even as we throw a sharper focus on values and 21st century competencies in MOE and our schools, NIE is working on a new model for teacher education for the 21st century, or 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, while the paradigm of teacher identity outlines the clear attributes a teacher must possess in order to bring about strong learning outcomes in a rapidly changing world. Service to the profession and the community spells out teachers’ commitment to their profession through active collaborations with members of the fraternity and striving to be better practitioners with a view to benefitting the community as a whole.

One notable NIE initiative in values education is the Meranti Project. The project got its name from the Meranti tree which produces very resilient wood – the same quality which we envisioned our teachers to have to weather the challenges ahead. The project is a personal and professional development programme specially tailored to help student teachers develop better self-awareness and gain insights and affirmation on their future career as a teacher. Through informal dialogue sessions and ingenious games, the programme also provides student teachers with a clearer idea of what National Education is all about and a better grasp of the innovative approaches to teaching National Education in the classroom. The project was introduced for Degree students in 2009 and will be introduced to all of NIE’s programmes from July 2010 onwards. These programmes in values education will help prepare our teachers in their delivery of 21st century competencies to their students.

Outstanding Role Models

At this juncture, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight a couple of outstanding individuals who will be graduating today. Not only have these individuals attained excellent academic performance, they have also shone as role models to inspire their peers.

One of them is Brindha Sankar, who used to be a staff member of the Rainbow Center Yishun Park School. Her previous experience of working with autistic children prompted her to lead her group in the Group Endeavours in Service Learning (GESL) project to learn more about autism. The group observed autistic children in the classroom as well as during hydrotherapy sessions. They learnt more about autism from the children’s teachers, psychologists and social workers. With a deeper understanding of autism, Brindha and her GESL team designed educational tasks and posters for the students of Yishun Park School. Her passion, coupled with her excellent leadership qualities, enabled her to inspire her team mates and bring about a positive impact on the lives of the students.

Another individual is Nurul Syahidah Binte Rahmat, who won the Rotary International 75th Anniversary Gold Medal Award in 2010. Nurul’s keen interest in Service Learning led to her active involvement in Youth Expedition Projects (YEP), such as the Builders of Hope Project in Cambodia in 2008, where she helped refurbish a hostel and build a library in an orphanage, in addition to building an extended classroom in a village school. She also contributed significantly to the NIE Service Learning Club (SLC) as the Treasurer and subsequently the Chairperson of the 5th Service Learning Club Executive Committee, where she acted as an advisor to the 4 teams sent by the club to various YEP locations last year. Given her love for sports and the outdoors, she also served as a manpower manager in the NIE Physical Education and Sports Science (PESS) Club, as well as a track judge in the Asean Youth Games 2009. Through the teaching of sports, she hopes to nurture positive character traits in her students.

Conclusion

I hope that these outstanding individuals will inspire you as you fulfil the calling to shape the lives of the future generation. May you persevere in your passion, lead by example, and uphold the very values that you wish to impart to your students. Give them your utmost care and commitment, and go the extra mile to make a difference. Let your love for knowledge and life inspire your students to do their best and fulfil their potential. 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!

Thank you.