Speeches

Opening Address by Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Education, at the Compass Convention on Saturday, 16th October 2010 at 9.00am, at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre

Ms Ho Peng, Director-General of Education

Distinguished COMPASS members

Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

Good morning and welcome to the COMPASS Convention 2010. We have been heartened by the positive feedback received from last year’s Convention and hence have decided to make the biennial COMPASS Convention a yearly affair. In this Convention, we have increased parent representation so that there could be more opportunities for parents to network and to equip them with more know-how for them to support their child’s educational growth and holistic development.

The theme for today’s Convention, “Ties that Bind: The Role of Parents in the 21st Century” highlights the challenges of parenting today. We now live in an increasingly diverse, globalised and complex society. How ready are our parents today to help their children make sense of all the knowledge, information and experiences that bombard their senses everyday? Perhaps a first step could be to take time to come for conventions like these. On our part, MOE is committed to partnering parents in enabling their child to develop their potential to the fullest.

Our three notable Convention speakers this morning will share with you some insights on the roles you can take to build a strong foundation for your children so that they can acquire the necessary skills that are critical for the 21st Century.

Children of the 21st Century

Most of you seated in the auditorium here today are probably born in the early years of the post-independence era. You would have had a different schooling experience compared to today’s children. It was a simpler world then when your sources of information revolved around the radio, TV and print media. Families gathered daily and bonded around their wooden Rediffusion box, listening to music, news and the entertaining stories from Lei Dai Soh or Ong Toh which were values-laden. It was indeed a simpler world, a black and white world, with a clearer sense of what was right and wrong.

Our children today are growing up in a very different environment. They are digital natives, comfortable in the use of new technologies such as the internet, Instant Messaging, MP3 player, Youtube, smartphones and so forth. This is Generation Z or more commonly referred to as the Millennial Generation, the Gamer Generation or the Net Generation. Some of these Gen Z youths can be described as impatient, instant-minded, highly dependent on technology, and have shorter attention span as compared to the previous generations .

The Impact of Technology and New Media on Our Children

The immediacy of access and independence that these technologies bring has profoundly impacted our children’s lives. For many of these kids, their lives evolve around these things that mainly start with the letter ‘i’ or ‘e’— iphone, ipod, iPad, iTunes, email, ebook, ebay, etc. They are great at multi-tasking, that is, you see them studying in their room in front of their computers with their headphones on, listening to music. They are blogging, tweeting, skyping with their friends, tagging photos on Facebook, streaming videos, playing online games and doing a host of other things.

The impact of technology and new media on our children is profound and warrant our attention. We are already seeing troubling signs. For example, online rants are becoming more threatening and vulgar, whether on local or global forums.

We have also seen our youths posting nude pictures of themselves online, using their phones to film indecent acts and uploading them on public websites. For example, we have seen a homemade video showing a boy being dangled from the parapet by his friends. Psychologists have noticed a worrying trend of silly, dangerous and even cruel pranks being played by young people.

As parents, how do we equip our children to live and navigate in a world that is so vastly different from the one that we grew up in? Technological advancements and new media have changed our lives so much that it is no longer possible to predict how the world will look in 5 years, much less in 20 years when our children become young adults.

There is thus an urgent need for parents to work closely with schools to prepare our children well for a new era, one that is driven by globalisation and technological advancements. As parents, we must be prepared to upgrade our skills and to learn, unlearn and relearn so that we can help our children to successfully manage and overcome the challenges of the 21st Century. We must help them to anchor themselves on a solid bedrock of positive values to weather the sea of changes.

Preparing Our Children for the 21st Century

MOE has developed a framework on the skills needed for the 21st century. I thought it would be useful to share some key ideas from this framework. First, what do we want to see as outcomes of our education system? In the globalised world, we would like our children to be confident persons amidst the intense competition. They should be able to communicate effectively, to share ideas and to bring others on board through persuasion and influence.

They should be self-directed learners, active contributors who work well in teams, concerned citizens with strong sense of civic responsibility, and participate actively to improve the community and the society they live in. But most of all, we would like them to be people who are adaptable and resilient and who can tell right from wrong.

The outer ring represents the emerging 21st Century competencies for a globalised world, namely, information and communication skills, creative and critical thinking, and civic literacy, global awareness and cross-cultural skills. Schools have been developing these competencies in their students by revamping the way lessons are taught in school. Children now learn in an environment that encourages active participation and independent learning. Students learn to work collaboratively in teams on projects under the supervision of their teachers who in turn, act as mentors and facilitators. Let us take a look at what some of the parents and students are saying.

While schools provide a strong holistic foundation for our young, parents need to ask how they too can contribute to this holistic development. Indeed, parents who are actively involved with the school to educate their children not only contribute to the healthy development of the child but also place them in good stead for the future.

Parents as Partners in Education

Moving forward, MOE is actively looking into how we can better communicate our initiatives and involve parents as partners in a more systematic manner. We will explore the use of new and existing platforms such as ICT and the School Family Education (SFE) Programme to communicate and level up parents’ competencies. We are happy to note that in many schools, Parent Support Groups (PSGs) are actively working hand-in-hand with the teachers to foster good values and bolster key competencies in the children.

COMPASS (COmmunity and PArents in Support of Schools), which is a committee comprising community leaders, professionals, parents and principals, has been reaching out to the PSGs regularly. This year, the COMPASS Parent Ambassadors reached out to parents from some primary schools to inform them of the changes to the Primary education and to solicit feedback from these parents. Talks were also held with the National Library Board (NLB) to explore ways to encourage parents to bond with their children through reading. COMPASS will continue to consolidate and improve our parent engagement effort.

Conclusion

Hodding Carter, a journalist and author, once said, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other wings.” The ‘roots’ are the values that will help anchor our children and be their strong pillar of support while the ‘wings’ will be their abilities to soar in the face of many changes, overcoming adversity.

So, let’s embark on the journey of educating our children together. As it takes a whole community to raise a child, schools and families play complementary roles in bringing up our children. I wish you all a fruitful time at the Convention.

Thank you.