Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng at the Ministry of Education Appreciation Reception for Chairpersons of School Advisory Committees, School Management Committees and Boards of Governors

Published Date: 23 October 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Neo Kian Hong,
Permanent Secretary (Education Development)

Mr Wong Siew Hoong,
Director-General of Education

Distinguished SAC, SMC and BOG Chairpersons

MOE Colleagues and Principals

Introduction

A very good afternoon to all. Thank you for joining us today at this Appreciation Reception for Chairpersons of our schools’ SACs, SMCs and BOGs. In this room, we have 162 Chairpersons from North and East Zone schools. You make up half of our schools’ partners, across our whole island.

Your presence is testimony that together, as partners, we can bring out the best in every child. All of us - parents, teachers, principals, employers, members of the broader community - working hand-in-hand can help bring out the best in every child.

Our schools have been very fortunate to have had the support of people like yourselves, who, when approached to contribute to the education of our children in our schools, graciously and unstintingly said “yes”. In 2014, MOE started to recognise schools for Best Practice in Partnership. In the short span of two years, 21 schools have been recognised for their Best Practices in Partnership. This number will continue to grow as our schools put greater effort and emphasis to harness the support and resources of the partners to benefit their students.

Thank you for giving your time, experience and networks to support our school leaders and educators in providing the best possible education for our students.

Over the years, MOE has worked with the school principals and teachers to build a robust education system. We have not achieved this by ourselves. The community, and in particular, the School Advisory Committees, School Management Committees and Boards of Governors have made deep and rich contributions to the growth and evolution of our schools. Allow me to reflect on four key areas of contribution.

First, ‘By the Community, For the Community’

As we look back at the early years of our education system, we will see evidence of the impact of the community on our education landscape. Numerous schools were set up by the community, for the community.

In 1935, Mr Huang Hua Long and four fellow villagers saw that there was a need to provide education to the village children. Although they had meagre resources, they were fired by their conviction to secure a better future for the children. They built a school with materials like attap and zinc. They named the school “Yu Neng” (育能), which in Chinese means ‘education enables’. With this name, the founders of the school had eloquently painted their vision for each new generation of students to benefit from a good education.

The school was forced to close from 1942 to 1945 during the Japanese Occupation. After World War II, with the support of the community, the school reopened as the community was resolute and determined to provide an education for the next generation. This year, Yu Neng Primary School celebrates its 80th anniversary. Over the many decades, the School Advisory Committee has ensured the school preserves its rich history and heritage, and teaches all the students to value education and to be grateful to pay back by serving the community.

We are inspired by the spirit of self-reliance demonstrated by Mr Huang and his fellow villagers. They adopted the approach of ‘by the community, for the community’. Similarly, several other schools such as Gongshang Primary School and Xinmin Secondary School were set up in a similar spirit of ‘by the community for the community’.

Second, Schools as ‘Common Space’

Today, we widely recognise that schools provide the common space for our young to interact and learn and grow up together, acquire a common set of values, forge a common national identity and engender social cohesion. But this was not always the case. Before 1959, schools were organised as Malay-medium, Chinese-medium, English-medium and Tamil-medium schools. After 1959, a key task for the new Government was to merge the Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English language streams and set up ‘integrated schools’.

Dunman Secondary School traces its history to 1963 when it was actually known as Dunman Integrated Secondary School. It was the first school to offer three language streams so that students of the three races could learn together and interact in the same school.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the SACs and SMCs played an instrumental role in enabling this “common space”, with a national vision of schools providing a common educational experience for students of all races. Third, Supporting Education Innovation

A bold initiative by MOE in 1988 was to set up independent schools. The purpose was to accord much greater autonomy to these schools to innovate, explore new models of educational excellence and be trailblazers for the system. Initially, the principals and teachers of the independent schools had to grapple with the independence and autonomy to explore and innovate. The members of their Board of Governors brought their varied industry and corporate experience to bear and helped the independent schools reframe, redesign and change, thereby playing a critical role in supporting our schools in education innovation.

Singapore Chinese Girls’ School benefited greatly from the experience and guidance of its Board of Directors when it transited to the independent school status in 1989. The Board guided the school on its organisational structure, administration and management processes as well as policies and programmes. The Board members’ vast network of community leaders also helped to connect the school to expertise needed to deepen various school programmes, including those for student leadership and character development.

Fourth, Preparing Students for the Future

Against a backdrop of an increasingly complex and volatile world, we seek to equip our students with values and skills for life. Schools provide authentic learning experiences to expand the students’ understanding and opportunities to interact with the community and industries.

SACs, SMCs and BOGs have leveraged their expertise and networks to enhance the diversity of learning programmes for schools. Such efforts help open up learning possibilities for our students beyond their classroom walls and school gates, and better prepare them for the future.

Ngee Ann Secondary’s SMC, whose Chairperson Mr Goh Kim Hock is here with us today, has helped the school to provide lessons on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Beyond benefitting the students of Ngee Ann Secondary School, the SMC linked the school up with the Science Arts Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) College to co-organise the National Schools Traditional Chinese Medicine Workshop and Challenge for 130 students from 12 schools. The students enjoyed themselves as they made various Chinese herb sachets for different health effects and ailments.

SACs, SMCs and BOGs have also helped schools to provide more opportunities for the students to understand various careers. Pei Hwa Secondary’s SAC led by Mr Hong Pian Tee, for instance, has been a strong partner in the school’s Education and Career Guidance efforts. The SAC members also provide students work experiences in hotels and retail outlets as well as volunteered their time and shared their career experiences with students. Their real-life experiences impressed upon the students the value of diligence and the importance of giving back to society. The students are greatly inspired by these frank and personal sharing.

Renewing Our Partnership

At the National Day Rally this year, Prime Minister Lee shared with us what Mr Lee Kuan Yew thought the next 50 years for Singapore would be like. Mr Lee Kuan Yew proclaimed that “The next 50 years will be better than the first 50.” For this vision to be realised, we must invest in the education of the next generation as the young will write the chapter of Singapore’s story in the next 50 years.

Our education system and schools must continue to raise the quality of education and expand the learning opportunities for our students. As Chairpersons of SACs, SMCs and BOGs, you play a key role in our schools’ efforts to improve and grow. On behalf of our schools and the Ministry, let me again express my deep thanks to you and the members of your SACs, SMCs and BOGs, for your strong partnership with and contribution to our schools.

Many of you have heard the traditional African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. SACs, SMCs and BOGs, together with other community partners such as alumni associations and Parent Support Groups, are valuable partners-in-education who support and complement the efforts of our schools. Together, let us all nurture a generation of new pioneers and continue to mould the future of our nation.

Thank you.

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