Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education, at the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) Tuition Programme Awards Presentation Ceremony on Saturday, 30 October 2010, 11.30am, at the Auditorium, Shaw Foundation Alumni House, National University of Singapore

CDAC Board Members,

CDAC Student Education and Development Committee Members,

Award Recipients and Family Members,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

I am happy to join all of you here this morning for the CDAC Tuition Programme Awards Presentation Ceremony.

Education Opportunities for All

Our education system aims to provide quality education for all Singaporean students. The Ministry of Education seeks to ensure that every school has good teachers and relevant resources to achieve this. In turn, our schools and teachers work hard and strive to do their best for our students. Our collective goal is help each child realise the full potential of his/her talent.

But this is not a mission for our schools alone. The family and community play an equally important role in the development of our children. By providing a strong network of care, support and encouragement, families and community groups can reinforce the efforts of our schools. I am, therefore, encouraged to see CDAC, and the other self-help groups and community organisations, doing good work alongside our schools to help our students do their best.

CDAC has always recognised the importance of education in helping students attain their full potential. CDAC launched its Tuition Programme in 1993 with the aim of providing affordable and quality tuition to help academically weaker students from less well-off families improve their studies. The Tuition Programme offers an impressive 18,000 tuition places for about 10,000 students from Primary One to GCE ‘O’ Levels annually. This is a major task which CDAC and its partners have been able to accomplish because of their unwavering commitment to help weaker students do better.

Outstanding Tutors

In particular, I would like to commend a special group of people who have been at the heart of CDAC’s tuition programme. They are the tutors, centre administrators and caretakers, who are the backbone of CDAC’s tuition classes. Today, 15 tutors will be presented the Tutor Commendation Award, and 106 tutors, centre administrators and caretakers will be receiving the Long Service Award.

There are many examples of selfless and outstanding tutors who have gone the extra mile to help their students. Among the 15 tutors who would be receiving the Tutor Commendation Awards today are third time recipients Mdm Chan Peck Wan and Mr Fok Hing Hong. They have been with CDAC for 13 years and 14 years respectively, and remain deeply passionate and committed to helping students to do better in their studies.

Mdm Chan Peck Wan

Mdm Chan Peck Wan was a full-time Secondary School teacher before she joined CDAC as a tutor in 1997 with a desire to help students from lower income families. Two years ago, when CDAC first piloted tuition classes at Pathlight School, Mdm Chan once again came forward to offer her services. She was one of the few tutors who passed the stringent selection process. Mdm Chan had no prior experience in teaching children with special needs. However, she managed to overcome the initial difficulties and challenges with great dedication and perseverance. Because of her good performance, Pathlight School offered Mdm Chan a full-time teaching position in 2009 which enabled her to dedicate even more time to helping children with special needs. Meanwhile, Mdm Chan continues to serve as a CDAC tutor staying true to her strong conviction to help students from less well-off families.

Mr Fok Hing Hong

Mr Fok Hing Hong, a retired school teacher, is a conscientious and competent tutor. Benjamin Ang, one of his tuition students, shared that his tuition classmates and he enjoy Mr Fok’s lessons very much. Mr Fok’s lessons enable them to learn Chinese in an engaging and stress-free environment. Mr Fok’s classes enjoy very good attendance and he never fails to contact his students if they are absent. I am told that he is like a grandfather to the students who appreciate his deep care and concern for them.

Mdm Ng Oon Oon

I would also like to commend Mdm Ng Oon Oon, a first-time Tutor Commendation Award recipient. Mdm Ng was an engineer before she retired in 1997. She became a part-time Mathematics and Physics teacher with the Prison School and the Changi Women’s Prison till 2007.

Mdm Ng then joined CDAC as a tutor in 2008. Although Mdm Ng has not received any formal training in teaching, she has done great work with her tuition students, with several of them earning Achievement and Best Progress Awards. Just this year alone, Mdm Ng has three tuition students receiving the CDAC Student Awards. Two of her students, Kum Li Ting and Rainier Yong, were awarded the Student Achievement Award for scoring an A1 in their ‘N’ level Mathematics Examinations. Another student, Yeo Yeu Jiunn was awarded the Best Progress Award for his significant improvement in Mathematics.

Balancing Learning of Knowledge and Development of Skills and Values

Besides imparting knowledge, we also need to develop the right skills and values in our youths. This is key to preparing them to thrive in the future world of work. CDAC also recognises this and hence encourages its tutors to help guide and mentor students in life skills, for instance financial literacy.

Financial literacy is the key to financial security. We want to imbue our students not just with knowledge and skills, but also good values and attitudes, such as thrift, in the management of money and resources.

I am therefore glad to learn that CDAC will partner the Citi-NIE Financial Literacy Hub for Teachers to integrate financial literacy into CDAC’s programmes. The Citi-NIE Financial Literacy Hub for Teachers, which was set up in October 2007, has trained more than 2,000 MOE teachers. The Hub has partnered more than 40 schools to actively promote financial education to their teachers and students over the last two years. The Hub is now expanding beyond schools to bring financial literacy values to the community through self-help groups.

Under this partnership, pedagogy workshops and personal finance seminars will be conducted to train CDAC volunteers and tutors in financial literacy. This will empower tutors with the knowledge to infuse financial literacy in their lessons, using real-life examples as tools to make learning relevant to the students.

In order to reach out to CDAC family beneficiaries, skits, game stations and board games on financial literacy will be included in major events. In addition, CDAC will explore collaboration with schools to organise more financial literacy enrichment programmes. I am happy to note that Nan Hua High School has come forward to partner CDAC to design financial literacy enrichment programmes.

Such partnerships enable organisations to leverage on one another’s strengths and resources, so that our students can benefit from quality programmes. Let me once again commend the efforts of all of you who have, in your various roles, helped make a difference in the lives of CDAC’s tuition students. As you walk their journeys with them, you are also imbuing them with the knowledge, skills and, more importantly, the confidence to embrace the future with courage and conviction. With your continued support and efforts, CDAC will be able to make its Tuition Programme an effective channel to help needy students in our community realise their full potential and build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Thank you.