Opening Remarks by Dr Ng Eng Hen at the National Day Rally Media Conference held at the MOE Function Room at 10:00 am, 31 August 2010

Investing in All Learners, Creating New Opportunities and Pathways

Singapore’s rapid progress has been made possible only through the sheer ability, tenacity and wits of its people. We must nurture this critical human resource through education as it is our most precious asset. Singapore is fortunate to have a strong and respected education system and good teachers, which have resulted from persistent efforts in the last three decades. Our general direction stays on course to build a broad range of peaks. Through education we seek to develop each Singaporean to his full potential. We want to uplift every student and harness the varied strengths of each individual—not only in academic domains, which remain important, but also across the diverse spread of talents and abilities that our people possess—in sports, art, dance and music. Our goal is to produce students who are confident in their abilities to lead productive and happy lives, care about others and who will contribute to their families and society.

Today, we are announcing a number of initiatives by MOE that will provide more opportunities in our education system to afford students greater choice of the most appropriate pathway that suits their needs, academic ability and aptitude. While more choices exist, ultimately it will still be the individual’s efforts that will determine his or her success.

In the last two years, MOE has been conducting systemic reviews across all levels—from primary to tertiary—to better achieve our educational goals. From this review, the Primary Education Review and Implementation (PERI) Committee announced its recommendations in 2009, implementation of which is under way. Concurrently, the Secondary Education Review and Implementation (SERI) Committee examined how we could improve our secondary education. New initiatives were also set about to improve the offerings of tertiary education. This press conference is to provide details of these recommended changes from SERI and the tertiary sector, some of which have been highlighted in PM’s National Day Rally speech.

First and foremost—teachers continue to be the most important determinant of the quality of education our students will receive.

  • We will provide general enhancements and increase numbers of teachers to boost quality across the board. We are growing the teaching force from 30,000 today to 33,000 in 2015. There will be an increase in the number of full time physical education and aesthetics teachers from 2,500 currently to about 4,500 by 2020.

  • The pupil to teacher ratio will be improved as we increase the teaching force. From 20:1 in 2009 to 15:1 in 2015 for primary schools and 17:1 to 14:1 for secondary schools.

  • The overall pupil to educator ratio is projected to improve from 17:1 in 2009 to 13:1 in 2015, an improvement of 24%. Teachers will be supported by a stronger School Team, including more allied educators and administrative staff.

  • Professional development will be stepped up. Teachers will have more avenues to improve their craft and build expertise through the set up of Academy of Singapore Teachers, Physical Education and Sports Teacher Academy (PESTA), Singapore Teachers’ Academy for the aRts (STAR), English Language Institute of Singapore (ELIS).

Second, we will build better infrastructure to support learning.

  • Single Session Primary Schools (SSPS)—provide Redesigned Classroom, rooms for customised teaching and outdoor learning spaces to facilitate engaged learning. Provide Band Room, Dance Studio, Performing Arts Studio, outdoor running track and Student Care Centre to develop life skills, promote socio-emotional development and nurture confidence.

  • Accelerate the roll-out of Indoor Sports Halls to schools over the next 6-7 years to enable our schools to conduct lessons without interruptions of weather.

  • Extend option to all schools to install synthetic turf fields as the pilot programme shows improved utilisation and reduced overall costs. This will enhance PE lessons and sports.

Third, specific changes in the secondary sector.

  • N(A) students—30% of N(A) students will be eligible for a new through train programme. For those who meet qualifying standards, two new pathways for N(A) students. Instead of proceeding to O levels, which will be retained, they can also choose to:

    • be directly admitted to Polytechnic for a one year foundation programme before they start their course or

    • to a Higher NITEC course at ITE with automatic entry into 1st or 2nd year Polytechnic if they meet GPA requirements.

  • For N(T) students, two new specialised schools that offer more hands-on learning opportunities. A whole-school approach will be taken to prepare students for subsequent studies in ITE, or for employment.

  • For those who are clearly university bound, we will expand the existing Integrated Programme to more schools.

Expansion of post secondary institutes. We are on track for the following programmes recently announced:

  • ITE regional campuses

  • Polytechnic expansion—to add 20% more capacity in four years.

  • Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)—Nine courses currently. There will be 500 places available for the first intake, and SIT plans to take in 2000 full-time students at steady-state in 2015

  • University sector—Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), NUS University Town.

Two new initiatives are announced today. One, to meet demand for doctors, there will be a new medical school, conferring joint degrees by NTU and Imperial College.

Second, MOE will now fund a number of places in new degree courses in NAFA and LASALLE. This is subject to the condition that the two arts institutions provide degree courses in partnership with reputable foreign universities and that only students who meet high standards will be eligible. This will help us produce leading professionals in arts, design and media to fuel our creative industries.

Taken together, the different elements add to an education system that invests in every Singaporean, develops him in all aspects, helps him to find his strengths (in academic and non-academic domains) and experience success in different domains. MOE will work hard to ensure that all these plans are implemented over the next several years. However, successful implementation will depend on continued economic growth to provide the financial resources as well as adequate manpower to build new facilities and to staff our teaching workforce.