Speeches

Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education at the 2012 Promotion Ceremony at 4.00pm on Thursday, 5 April 2012, at the Suntec Convention Ballroom 1-2

Ms Chan Lai Fung,
Permanent Secretary (Education Policy)

Ms Yeoh Chee Yan,
Permanent Secretary (Education Development)

Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be with all of you on this happy occasion. I extend my warmest congratulations to the 6,803 MOE officers who have been promoted this year. They comprise 6,487 Education Officers, 154 Allied Educators (AED) and 162 Executive and Administrative Staff (EAS). 1,206 are in the Superscale or Senior Education Officer grades and equivalent AED and EAS grades. These promotions recognise the contributions of many dedicated officers and testify to their good performance.

Moving in the Qualitative direction: Leadership

Leading this year’s promotion list is Miss Ho Peng, Director-General of Education who has been promoted to Superscale C. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for exemplary leadership of the Education Service and her excellent work in deepening the professional capabilities and ethos of the fraternity. I’m also pleased to announce that 121 Principals have been promoted in grade. This is almost 3 times the number promoted last year. At MOE HQ, 9 of our Directors and Deputy Directors have also been promoted to the next higher grade. I am pleased that the professional leadership in MOE and schools is growing from strength to strength.

Senior Specialist Track

On the Senior Specialist Track, we now have 4 Principal Specialists, 3 Lead Specialists and 181 Senior Specialists. This year, 33 of them have been promoted. With these promotions, we now have a total of 7 Senior Specialists in the superscale grades.

Among our specialists who have been promoted is Principal Specialist Dr Quek Chwee Geok. Not only does Chwee Geok spearhead policy and programming for Gifted Education, she also advises schools on talent development programmes for high-ability learners in English, Math and Science. In this way, strategies developed under the Gifted Programme are adapted or deployed to benefit other pupils. An effective trainer, she guides the design and implementation of many training programmes for her colleagues in HQ. Widening the scope of Chwee Geok’s assignments is one way in which MOE harnesses the expertise and passion of our specialists to spread good practices across schools to deliver a better outcome for our students.

Master Teachers and Teaching Track

We are also building up the Teaching Track. 1 new Principal Master Teacher and 6 Master Teachers have been appointed this year, bringing the total number of Principal Master Teachers to 4 and Master Teachers to 35. Of the 4 Principal Master Teachers, one of them has been promoted to Superscale grade this year. Of the 35 Master Teachers, 6 have been promoted this year to the SEO 1A1 and SEO 1A2 grades.

Dr Charles Chew is a Principal Master Teacher in Physics at the Academy of Singapore Teachers who is receiving his promotion certificate today. He leads the Science Subject Chapter and its team of Master Teachers at the AST. Charles is recognised for his very strong grasp of professional content knowledge and a passion to translate theory into practice so that effective teaching and meaningful learning can take place. Physics teachers know him for his engaging workshops, as well as the rich resources he offers them. Charles is a good example of how our teachers on the teaching track can have a fulfilling career and be a mentor to other teachers.

This year, 10 Lead Teachers have been promoted to the grade of SEO 1A1. With the promotions, we now have 66 Lead Teachers under the Teaching Track. 151 Senior Teachers have been promoted to the SEO 1 grade this year. With these promotions, we now have 1,550 Senior Teachers, about 5 for each school. We will continue to provide opportunities for teachers with the abilities and passion to be mentors for other teachers.

Mr Yap Boon Chien (SEO1) is a Lead Teacher in Tanjong Katong Girls’ School and a firm advocate of professional learning communities (PLC). Boon Chien promotes professional sharing through networked learning with fellow physics teachers in his school. Whenever one teacher has a new idea or practice which students found interesting, the other teachers in the PLC can adapt it Boon Chien also contributes actively at the cluster and MOE level as part of his work in the Physics Subject Chapter. He keeps in touch with educators abroad through the online Modelling Instruction Physics Learning community hosted by Arizona University, USA. Teachers like Boon Chien help build a culture of professional collaboration in our schools to raise the quality of teaching and learning.

Moving in the Qualitative direction: 21C-Ready Teacher

21CC and Student-Centric Values-Driven Education

Preparing our students for the future has been a work-in-progress for MOE. This has been made all the more challenging by the rapid pace of change. Education is now less about transferring content knowledge but more about learning how to learn and about holistic development. Our students need to know what is right and what is wrong. They need to discern truths from untruths. Education is about developing in our students an enduring core of competencies, values and character so that they have the resilience to survive and succeed in a future which could be very different from the one that we are living in today.

Two years ago, we undertook a comprehensive review of educational outcomes for the 21st century and developed the 21st Century Competency Framework, or 21CC Framework for short. In essence, we want to see each child become a Confident Person, a Self-directed Learner, an Active Contributor, and a Concerned Citizen.

Pre-Service in NIE

Central to delivering our 21CC outcomes are our teachers. They themselves must have the relevant values, knowledge and skills to guide our young. It starts with recruiting teachers with the right values and passion to teach. NIE then needs to equip them, not just with a strong foundation in pedagogical content knowledge, but also in the ethos of the teaching profession. I am glad to know that under TE21 (or Teacher Education for the 21st Century) NIE’s programmes are well aligned to our 21CC Framework and seek to help our trainee teachers develop the right values, knowledge and skills they will need in the classroom. NIE also seeks to instil in our trainee teachers a strong sense of professionalism, to contribute to the community and to take personal responsibility for his or her continuing professional development. I take this opportunity to commend NIE for your forward looking approach and collaborative spirit.

Structured Mentoring Process in schools

Pre-service training marks the start of the exciting journey for a teacher. In nurturing our students to be 21st century competent, our teachers must not only teach, but must keep up with new knowledge and innovative pedagogies. Our teachers must be models of self-directed, lifelong learning.

To facilitate our teachers’ learning, schools need to provide a conducive learning environment. Beginning teachers, for instance, face a steep learning curve. To support them, a school mentor guides them through a Structured Mentoring Programme (SMP). Mentoring helps our teachers to enhance content mastery and pedagogical competence. Mentors support their mentees in various ways, such as modelling effective teaching, helping their mentees collaborate with colleagues in learning teams and providing moral support. Through discussions, observations and reflections, both mentors and mentees strengthen their teaching competencies and enhance the learning experiences of their students. Our Structured Mentoring Programme is an induction into a culture of continuing professional development.

Ms Kuek Xiao Bin in Anglo-Chinese Junior College is an example of a beginning teacher who learnt much from her mentor. Xiao Bin found her biggest challenge was to motivate her students. She was fortunate to have Mdm Rohayati as her mentor. Her mentor not only showed her what it meant to lead, care and inspire, but also demonstrated and led her to understand that “when you care, they (the students) care too”. I am sure that Xiao Bin will be a good mentor to a new teacher one day and pass on her values and skills to a new member of the teaching profession.

Beyond structured mentoring…

Our teachers’ learning does not stop when the structured mentoring programme ends. It is a continuous journey of discovery, learning and sometimes, un-learning. Today, most of our schools have Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) where teachers collaborate in teams to share and deepen their knowledge and skills. These PLCs are very important learning platforms for our teachers to share their insights and reflections with fellow teachers. By being open to feedback, teachers can further hone their teaching skills. To-date, I am heartened to note that 305 or 85% of our schools have come onboard the PLC journey. I encourage all schools to embrace such collaborative sharing and learning.

At Bedok South Secondary School, the Maths Department makes good use of PLCs to collaborate on a teaching package to enhance students’ confidence and ability in solving non-routine mathematical problems. Instead of each teacher applying the existing lesson package, all the Maths teachers get together and painstakingly replace problems and revise scaffolding guidelines to meet their own students’ needs and abilities. The customised lesson plans are then tried out reviewed and revised. I am happy to share that this has resulted in improved student outcomes. Teachers have also benefited from the discussions on lesson design and pedagogical practice through these weekly sessions, enhancing their own professional competence in the process.

Beyond sharing in the schools, 13 Subject Chapters, ranging from the Humanities to Mathematics and the Sciences, have been set up by AST. These subject chapters, helmed by Master Teachers, help raise professional standards through deepening the pedagogical content knowledge of teachers, and serving as a focal point for teacher collaboration on effective instructional approaches in the classroom. The Subject Chapters run a series of teacher-led workshops and cluster-level sharing sessions. Through these sharing and learning platforms, teachers engage in collaborative inquiry and professional exchange about “what works”. I encourage all schools and all teachers to get involved in such teacher-owned professional development.

Recruiting good teachers and training them well both at NIE and in school provides our teachers with a good foundation in theory and practice. We should build on the growth of PLCs and Subject Chapters at the teacher academies, to deepen and broaden the professionalism of our teachers. I urge all our Senior Educators here not only lead by example but also facilitate the learning and development of teachers under your charge. The emphasis on professional development goes beyond pursuing higher qualifications to inculcating the spirit of continual learning, which is in itself a vital 21st century disposition. Under the collective leadership of all here, I look forward to an even stronger culture of professional pride and excellence.

Moving in the Qualitative direction: Competent Educator Support

Our AED and EAS staff play very important roles in supporting our teachers in delivering the educational outcomes to our students.

Since the Allied Educator Scheme started in 2009, we now have 2,200 AEDs. AEDs partner teachers to deliver holistic education for our students, whether in teaching and learning, social emotional counselling or learning behavioural support. This year, 154 AEDs have been promoted.

Ms Jenny Tan Yiunn Fong is a School Counsellor in Pasir Ris Secondary School. Other than her primary counselling work, she works closely with other teachers in ensuring that students are emotionally supported to learn and grow in her school. Jenny is always on the lookout for students who are at risk of dropping out from school. Once she is aware of any student at risk, she will work with the students’ parents and relevant agencies to motivate the students remain in school. She has also designed guiding questions to help teachers in identifying students who are at risk.

Other than Allied Educators, our Executive and Administrative Staffs is another group of educational partners that play an important role in policy work and administrative support for MOE and schools. This year, 162 Division One EAS officers have been promoted.

One of them is Mr Manmohan Singh (MX10), Vice-Principal (Administration) of ACS (Barker Road). Not content with just ensuring that current administrative processes go on smoothly, Manmohan is always striving to make administration simpler for everyone in his school. For example, he brought together different data silos to create a central repository system for all administrative information and data. School staff can now access this one-stop portal for admin information. Manmohan also encourages his EAS colleagues in school to get involved in their own CIP programme—caring for children with special needs.

Evelyn Tan Ee Ling (MX10), AD (Development Planning) School Planning and Placement Division, is another good example of the many dedicated officers we have in MOE HQ. Evelyn leads her team in the planning and implementation of school infrastructure projects. To plan, design and build a school, she and her team have to work with many stakeholders within and outside of MOE. Evelyn ensures the success of every project by involving and listening to all parties that have a stake in the school. Notwithstanding her heavy responsibilities as AD, Evelyn has a heart for new staff and interns. She makes a special effort to mentor them, so that new officers can get up to speed quickly and bond with the team.

Conclusion

In the limited time today, I have only cited some examples of the good work that our teachers and education partners continue to do every day. Teaching is a noble profession. Teachers together with AED and EAS, form the heart of good schools. It is only with the hard work, dedication and commitment by all of you that we can have a good education system. Let me conclude by once again congratulating all officers who have been promoted this year. Keep up the excellent work!