Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the 2015 Teaching Scholarship Presentation Ceremony, at Orchard Hotel, on Tuesday, 28th July 2015, 3.00pm

Published Date: 28 July 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Ms Indranee Rajah
Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Ministry of Education

Mr Lim Biow Chuan
Member of Parliament and Chairman of the GPC for Education

Ms Chan Lai Fung
Permanent Secretary (Education)

Mr Neo Kian Hong
Permanent Secretary (Education Development)

Mr Wong Siew Hoong
Director-General of Education

Colleagues, Parents, Teaching Scholars and Award Holders

Ladies and Gentlemen

1.It is a great pleasure for me to be here once again for our MOE Teaching Award Scholarship presentation.

2.210 young men and women are getting awarded MOE’s teaching scholarships and awards. I am glad that you are committing yourselves to shaping young lives. Why Teaching Scholarships?

3.At this scholarship ceremony, I am going to tell you one thing you expected, and another you may not.

  • First, the expected: My heartiest Congratulations! I am glad you choose to teach. This scholarship will support you to do that.
  • Second, the unexpected: The scholarship is important, but, by itself, it is not sufficient for you to become a good teacher.

4.So what else do you need to do?

5.Let me refer to the Vision of the Teaching Service: Lead, Care, Inspire - what do you need to do to lead, care and inspire?

6.As teachers, you need something you stand on, something you stay true to, something you reach for. You stand on a firm foundation. You stay true to your heart for others, your mission to serve, your values, principles and identity. You reach for the best in each of your students, you inspire and empower your students’ aspirations to reach for the brightest possible future for them.

7.You are here today because you have done well, because some teachers in your life have stood on a firm foundation, stayed true to their teacher’s mission, and helped you reach for your aspirations. You are here today because your parents have given you the firm foundation and you are on the brink of your own bright future. So this scholarship will help. But more importantly, you need that foundation, that sense of Mission and the aspiration. With these, you not only lead, care, inspire - you build a people, a nation, and a future.

8.Today, I want to share more about building a firm foundation. Teachers must seek to build a firm foundation. We guide students to be lifelong learners and give them a firm foundation for their lifelong learning - so teachers must be role models of lifelong learning. The logic applies with even greater force to every teacher regardless of your years of service.

Building a Firm Foundation

9.The Ministry recognises the deep impact teachers have on your students. As teachers, you will commit yourself to students’ learning and development. To do so, teachers need firm foundation not just in teaching a specific subject. It should be a firm foundation in developing the whole child.

10.The core of a teacher’s foundation is, in fact, your values. I am very happy that you have made the decision to commit yourself, your own learning and work to grooming young minds.

11.At the Ministry, we are also committed, not just to the students, but also to your own learning and development as teachers. Because you have made the commitment to the teacher’s calling, MOE too is committed to developing you, to help you succeed. In the same way that you build your foundation to develop the whole child, we build up programmes to develop our teachers fully.

12.The Ministry is committed to ensuring that teachers start with a firm foundation, and have the support and continual learning to keep building on this firm foundation. This is why, this year, we have enhanced the curriculum for NIE’s Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Education (BABSc (Ed) programme.

13.This is a new 4-year immersive degree programme. It integrates the best of an academic degree with a good foundation in the field of education. It has a strong inquiry focus - exposes student teachers to both education and content research, allowing them to continuously learn and inquire throughout their life.

14.Our approach is to help you deepen your knowledge and skills in two key areas: to know your subject well and to know how to teach it well.

15.First, Know your subject well.

  • This is about you and your subjects.
  • You must have strong content mastery.
  • When you know it well, and can show your students how it applies to their lives, you will help your students love the subject.

16.Second, Know how to teach your subject well So knowing the subject itself is not enough, you need to know how to teach it well.

  • This is about you and your students.
  • Your students have different paces and styles of learning.
  • You must understand how each student learns, the different things that motivate and inspire each student.
  • This is the more challenging, and also the most rewarding, part of teaching.
  • When I spoke about knowing your subjects well, I do not mean just academic subjects, but everything that comes with developing a whole child.
  • E.g., CCE. I have said this many times - that this is the most difficult subject to teach. Knowing how to teach this well is probably one of the bigger challenges for a teacher, but also one of the ways you leave the greatest impact on your students.

17.When teachers can bring together knowing the subject well, and teaching the subject well, you can make a massive difference to your students’ learning.

18.To help you know your subject well, the enhanced BA/BSc (Ed) will support student teachers in a few areas:

  • Develop deep content knowledge and disciplinary thinking.

    • For example, if you teach History, it will teach you to think like a historian. You would seek knowledge and meaning the same way a historian would.
    • A teacher with disciplinary thinking will be able to teach the subject more authentically. He or she will also be able to explain these ideas and their inter-connections more deeply, providing compelling rationale for learning the concepts.
    • It is the same for other subjects.
  • Another aspect of this programme is to acquire research skills under the mentorship of top professors and researchers in your content major.

  • The third expect of it is to learn in different contexts. The programme is a rigorous curriculum that includes a semester overseas with partner universities such as, UCLA, University of Helsinki, Linkoping University and Tsing Hua University.

19.To help you teach your subject well, the enhanced BA/BSc (Ed) will support student teachers to also:

  • Develop teaching skills of 4 practicum stints in school..

  • So this will deepen your practice and help you develop a global perspective on teaching and learning. Student teachers will spend 1 practicum stint overseas, in countries such as Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, China and the United States.

    • This is an exciting prospect for our student teachers.
    • You will work alongside passionate educators in different education systems. You will be able to see the similarities and differences, and learn for yourself what will work best for our students, in our unique environment.
  • And finally, you get to do educational research into understanding your students and how they learn. You need to be able to reach your students in order to teach them. Hence, understanding of student motivation and supporting their development is very important.

20.This enhanced BA/BSc (Ed) is the only programme in Singapore that provides undergraduates with the opportunity to inquire into the psychology of learners and the science of learning.

21.I am happy that 50 teaching scholars and award holders will be enrolled in the programme this year. You will be the second batch of scholars and award holders to have chosen to embark on this 4-year learning journey at NIE. Together with your seniors, we hope you will benefit from the enhancements to the programme, and go on to help your students learn.

22.What NIE learns from running this enhanced BABSc (Ed) programme, in terms of helping teachers build a firm foundation, will also be very helpful for other pre-service and in-service programmes too. This will also be helpful to our Academy of Singapore Teachers.

23.There are many opportunities to keep learning, even if you’re not on the BA/BSc (Ed) is programme. For those of you doing the Post-Grad Diploma in Education (PGDE) programme, amke full use of this programme to build a good professional foundation. It will prepare you before you start in schools as trained teachers.

24.Whichever pathway you take (whether it is a 4-year foundation through BABSc or 1-year through PGDE), you need to grow and hone your skills as a teacher. The Academy of Singapore Teachers (AST) and the many on-the-job learning and improvement initiatives will support you in this journey.


25.Let me return to the one expected and one unexpected thing I said at the start. Once again, my heartiest congratulations to all of you as well as your family members, love ones who have supported you.

26.A scholarship is important in giving you the opportunities to build a firm foundation. But it will take more than a scholarship. It takes a firm foundation, a strong sense of mission, and inspiring aspirations.

27.The craft of teaching takes a long time to hone, on the job, day in, day out. Practising your craft, honing it, getting better. We start building the firm foundation at NIE, and this will give you an excellent start. We continue to strengthen this foundation throughout your teaching life, for life. Use that foundation to serve your sense of mission, and reach for yours and your students’ aspirations - and you will make a great difference to many, and mould the future of our nation.

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