Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Acting Minister for Education (Schools) at the NIE Teachers’ Investiture Ceremony, at Nanyang Technological University

Published Date: 04 July 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. A warm welcome to 1,220 new teachers into the Singapore Education Service, and current teachers who are graduating with their bachelor degrees. My heartiest congratulations to everyone.

Education for a Future-Ready Singapore

2. As we move from Singapore SG51 towards SG100, it is timely for us to take a refreshed look and see how we can further improve our education system.

3. We have done very well in the last 50 years and our schools are top ranked in the world. But the world as we know it is rapidly changing, with great technological breakthroughs. The future world is full of opportunities for innovation, advancements and transformation.

4. This “future world” requires a shift in our mindsets to move away from over-emphasis on academic excellence and change our children’s perspective of failure, and strengthen their characters to face adversities and take up risks. While we tweak the system, our students must still have high goals for themselves. The emphasis on excellence must always be there and we should not shy from wanting to do our very best, academically or otherwise. But it is the over-emphasis on academics that can become a disabler.

5. How can you as teachers explore non-academics aspects beyond the classroom to bring values of resiliency, tenacity, collaboration skills and leadership skills? What are some aspects of education that would bring value to your students’ learning? Will creativity and innovation help our students better meet the challenges of life? In providing a holistic education, we need to create the overall space for the kids to enjoy and discover things for themselves. As a saying goes: “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted”.

6. Our education system needs to nurture a community of learners who are active and innovative thinkers, with a strong sense of responsibility and ownership. We need to help our students become socially adaptable, resilient and possess the ability to contribute to building societal cohesiveness.

7. Beyond academic excellence, building character and values from a young age is a necessary anchor for our students. It forms the foundation where we draw different strengths to be able to meet the challenges of the future head on, so that each generation of Singaporeans will be equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and values to meet the challenges ahead.

8. Your role as teachers is crucial in nurturing, guiding and preparing our learners of today to enable them to achieve their maximum potential. The real essence of education is lifelong learning, where both students and teachers have a passion for learning and a constant thirst and curiosity for knowledge.

9. To achieve this, a clear and strong unity of purpose is crucial to develop a strong teacher identity and the competence to nurture and guide the next generation. I am confident that you have both the commitment and competence to be excellent teachers.

Quality Education: Key to being Future-Ready

10. Each and every child matters. This value is clearly articulated in NIE’s Teacher Education Model for the 21st Century, or TE 21 in short.

11. I agree with what some experienced teachers have shared on what a quality education is about:

  • it emphasises holistic development,
  • equips students with the knowledge and skills to prepare for and succeed in the future,
  • inculcates students with the right values, and
  • imbues students with a positive learning attitude.

12. I came across a quote recently “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” Such an approach is premised on the belief that every child can learn and achieve. It involves understanding the needs and strengths of our students, and adapting the learning and teaching processes to help every child stay engaged in their learning.

13. Each student has different talents, different interests. Help your students explore those possibilities. Find niches where students can be successful so that they will have a fulfilling and holistic education journey.

14. MOE has taken first steps, but it takes many, many hands to come together to keep the environment at the optimal level for our kids to learn to strive. It will take some time for different stakeholders to see the value of not just an academically bright student, but a student that would have the initiative to seize opportunities, the tenacity to persist through a problem, to find that value and to create that value.

15. Recently, PM Lee shared a New York Times post about Berlin being a “playground paradise”. He noted that German parents believed in letting their children explore in a challenging environment so that they would learn to be independent. He felt that it was important for children to learn through exploration and risk taking, and to take a few setbacks along the way. This would build their confidence and help them grow up to be more resilient and better able to handle difficult situations. I cannot agree more.

16. Today, many of the successful people in society, especially those in business, may not be from the top schools or have top grades. They have skills sets that many do not have - the ability to handle risks, to work in uncertain environments and seizing opportunities. There are different parts that define a person, not just academics. So as you will agree with me, success need not only be defined in the academic sense.

17. I hope as educators that you can be fully on board and committed to this principle as well. This is important as we work together to prepare our students for a Future-Ready Singapore.

18. There are many outstanding role models amongst you. For example, a student teacher graduating today - Farah Binte Rosalan overcame the disappointment of scoring less than average ‘A’ level results. Farah had difficulties with her studies at first, but she worked hard and excelled in her Bachelor of Arts (Education) Programme. Despite the heavy study load, she was determined to give back to society, helping less privileged children by volunteering as part-time tutor with Mendaki Sense Organisation. For her contribution, Farah received the Outstanding Tutor Award from the Mendaki Sense Organisation.

19. Another student teacher is Seetaram Panday s/o Ramanan. Seetaram was from the Diploma in Education Programme. He did very well and was offered the Bachelors of Arts (Education) Programme, where he topped his BA cohort! This was no mean feat for Seetaram who has reading difficulties where long texts and long paragraphs can be challenging for him. To overcome this, he reads aloud slowly. Hearing the words helps him understand the content better. He also has to put in the extra time and effort to prepare his lessons. Remarkably, he still made time to be actively involved in student activities throughout his stint at NIE, developing himself holistically to be an effective educator. Seetaram is undoubtedly a role model for all of us and for his students.

20. There are also many meaningful Group Endeavours in Service Learning or GESL projects undertaken by our student teachers. One such group, ‘Reach Out’, led by Siti ‘Ayuni Binte Aidil, Justina Tok, Muhammad Faizal Bin Mak Said and John Goh. The team partnered NS men to collect recyclable materials to raise funds for under privileged children. The team put in not only their hearts, but also their sweat to make this project possible. I’m sure collecting recyclable materials from blocks of HDB flats is very hard work! Through this experience, the student teachers increased their awareness of the value of service learning.

Conclusion

21. In conclusion, I urge everyone to hold fast to your values of caring for each and every student as you help them to prepare for the exciting future ahead. Help your students embark on an education journey that is fun, with lots of intrinsic rewards that would enable a child to enjoy lifelong learning.

22. Let the compass that you received at the beginning of your studies at NIE be a reminder of your choice, commitment, challenge and calling to join the teaching fraternity and help mould the future generations of Singaporeans for many years to come.

Thank you.

Share this article: