Speeches

Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence at the 2010 Teaching Scholarship Presentation Ceremony at Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre on Thursday, 12 August 2010, 3.00pm

Mr S Iswaran,
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Education

Mr Lim Biow Chuan,
Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC and Deputy Chairman of the GPC for Education

Mrs Tan Ching Yee,
Permanent Secretary

Ms Yeoh Chee Yan,
Second Permanent Secretary

Ms Ho Peng,
Director-General of Education

Colleagues, Parents, Teaching Scholars,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to join you this afternoon at this ceremony. I am glad that your family members and teachers are here with you to celebrate this commitment to a meaningful and challenging career. I extend my heartiest congratulations to each of you scholarship and award recipients.

Teaching Scholarships and Awards in 2010

This is an exciting time to be in the education service. I say this because the teaching profession is on an onward and upward trajectory. There is vibrancy, and across our island, principals and teachers are excited and not afraid to innovate and attempt new ideas that better engage their students and develop them to their full potential. I will share some examples later but this virtuous state of affairs is only possible because we have invested considerable resources in the past two decades to attract, train and retain good caliber people to become teachers and educational leaders.

Our teaching scholarships and awards have been successful in attracting top talent with the commitment to teach, the passion to enrich the learning experiences of pupils, and the inspiration to make a difference in their lives.

This year, we are giving out a total of 360 teaching scholarships and awards. The Public Service Commission has awarded two of you the prestigious Overseas Merit Scholarship for Teaching. In addition, 28 of you will receive the Education Merit Scholarship (EMS) which is the apex of teaching scholarships offered by MOE. This is the highest number awarded to date.

Reflect with Gratitude, Teach with Passion

The theme for this year’s ceremony was conceptualised by our scholar Miss Han Zi Rui who has just graduated from Nanyang Technological University with a degree in Fine Arts. It draws inspiration from “饮水思源” (read: yín shuĭ sī yuán), an old Chinese proverb with the literal translation: “When one drinks water, one must remember its source”. We believe that as teaching scholars and award holders who will be our future educators, you will not forget the sources of inspiration in your lives: your parents, teachers and schools. And in turn, you will “Lead, Care, and Inspire” your students to complete the cycle. I am excited that this is already happening. Previous batches of scholarship and award recipients are now taking leadership positions that will energise the teaching profession to greater heights. They are now Vice-Principals and Principals who are in a position to have a powerful collective impact in our schools for their students.

Lead — Scholars as Leaders

It takes many years of training and resources to develop leaders in education, but it is well worth the effort and investment. Let me give one example to illustrate. Miss Beatrice Chong, a Local Merit Scholar, majored in English Language and History at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and obtained her Master’s in Education from Harvard. After stints as a teacher at St. Andrew’s Junior College and MOE Headquarters, she became Vice-Principal at Marsiling Secondary School. Today she is the Principal of Dunman Secondary School. Like her, our Vice-Principals and Principals would have been exposed to a rich variety of learning experiences, formed their own views about how students learn, what can motivate them, and how they can rally their teachers and students. This is the reason why the changes we are seen today in education is sustainable, and will continue to progress. Having strong, enlightened and energetic leaders is a key reason why our schools have progressed so quickly.

As recipients of MOE scholarships and awards, you start this journey to prepare you to one day take over the reins as school leaders.

Care — Contributing to Society

So look upon these coming years as training and testing grounds that will stretch your potential, test your limits and strengthen your mettle. Be proactive and seek new opportunities to expand your comfort zones. Miss Phua Hui Shan Georgiana, our 2007 Overseas Teaching Scholar and third year student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago studying Fine Arts, did just that. As part of a community involvement programme, Georgiana volunteered in a Mobile Art School in Sipili, Kenya, for three weeks in January 2009. Upon her return to the US, she proposed a project to build a greenhouse in Sipili and was awarded the Projects for Peace grant. She worked on the project in school and went back to Kenya this year to extend her community involvement with Sipili from early June to mid July. Georgiana will be graduating with her Master’s Degree in May 2011. Her unique experiences will show through when she teaches her students and interacts with other teachers.

While you focus on your personal development, remember also that you are part of the teaching fraternity, with a deep ethos and caring culture. You should do your part to build your professional community. Indeed, among our scholars, we have those who choose it as their main focus by taking on the role of a Master Teacher - a teacher of teachers. One example is Dr Charles Chew who did his undergraduate studies at NUS, and his Master’s and Doctorate in Education in Australia. He started as a teacher at Victoria Junior College then contributed at various postings, both at the MOE Headquarters, as well as at Dunman High School where he became its Vice-Principal. Today he is a Master Teacher for Physics, guiding, leading and inspiring other teachers in the journey towards professional excellence.

Inspire — Scholars who Influence and Motivate

As scholars and award holders, recognize also that others look up to you and that you do have vast influence. Take our Education Merit Scholarship recipient this year, Mr Chiang Yuan Bo. His Chemistry teacher Mr Teo Kok Hong sparked his interest in Chemistry and influenced Yuan Bo’s decision to become a teacher.

Mr Teo himself is a Local Merit Scholar who is currently teaching at Victoria Junior College, and was in turn inspired by his teacher Mdm Leong Chin Ling to join the teaching fraternity. Mdm Leong, a Local Merit Bursary holder, is currently the Level Head of Chemistry in VJC, and is still inspiring many of her charges to become teachers.

Our teaching fraternity will also have a greater inject of talent as we recruit more musicians and artists. For example, Miss Denise Lee Shu Hui, who was awarded the Education Merit Scholarship in 2006, frequently performs as an accompanist, chamber musician and orchestral keyboardist. She decided to join the teaching profession to pass on her love of music to her students. Denise has just completed her final year at the Royal College of Music (UK) and will soon be embarking upon her teacher preparation course at the National Institute of Education. For this year, we have awarded 11 Art and 7 Music scholars. I cite these examples, to tell you that what we have is a very rich tapestry of diverse talents, in both depth and breadth. That collective experience, intelligence, energy and passion is what gives me the optimism that it is an exciting time to be in the education service.

Conclusion

There is an exciting future ahead for the teaching profession. Your career can be rich and rewarding because of the great impact you have on individual students and in moulding the future of the nation. We ask that you join the teaching fraternity, to lead, care and inspire. To lead as role models; to care and inspire your students to believe in themselves.

Once again, I congratulate every one of you on having received a teaching scholarship and award and wish you the very best in the journey ahead.