Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Acting Minister for Education (Schools), at the 2016 Teaching Scholarship Presentation Ceremony

Published Date: 29 July 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. It gives me great pleasure to join you at this year’s Teaching Scholarship Presentation Ceremony. Please allow me to congratulate the 176 young people who will be receiving their awards today.

Teaching as a Calling

2. Singapore celebrated its Golden Jubilee last year and we want to continue building on the firm foundations laid by our pioneers. One of the legacies of our founding fathers is Singapore’s highly regarded education system. This legacy will be preserved only if we continue to bring good people into the Education Service - to further strengthen the education fraternity, so that it can continue its mission to help every child achieve his or her fullest potential.

3. It takes a special person to be a teacher. I’m sure that many of you here chose to join the Education Service as you considered it to be your calling. By making this choice, you have demonstrated your commitment to serve future generations of Singaporeans. As a teacher, you need to be passionate about developing the hearts and minds of young people. As a teacher, you shape your students’ values and help them discover their aspirations in life. Just as the famous sculptor, Michelangelo, saw the potential of a single block of marble, teachers are in a position to discover and enable the untapped potential of their students. That block of marble eventually became the masterpiece that is the statue of David.

4. I’m sure that as a student, you have experienced times when you did not believe in yourself. And sometimes, there is a teacher who is there to encourage. This was the case for Miss Chia Hui Ning. When she was struggling with sculpting a piece of clay during her JC Art lesson, her teacher, Ms Yeo Mon Yun, stood quietly by her and patiently guided her through the sculpting process. Hui Ning was touched by Ms Yeo’s kindness and patience. A seemingly small act allowed her to learn to believe in herself and persevere. It was Ms Yeo’s efforts that affirmed Hui Ning’s decision to become a teacher. In her scholarship essay, Hui Ning wrote that Ms Yeo made a difference to her life and this inspired her to want to make a difference to others too. Hui Ning is a recipient of the Teaching Award and will be pursuing Art at the Bachelor of Arts (Education) programme at the National Institute of Education. Like Ms Yeo, you will be in a position where you can encourage your students to be the best versions of themselves.

The Craft of Teaching

5. Teaching can be considered to be a lifelong endeavour. As teachers, you need to constantly work at improving yourself, both in subject mastery and character. As shapers of the heart and mind, you need to keep on working on your craft and think of new ways to excite and engage the students that you teach. You also need to seek out teachable moments to inculcate important values to the many young people that you interact with on a daily basis.

6. Let me share with you some stories of the inspiring work of our educators. Mdm Halimah Jumaha is a Senior Teacher at Bedok South Secondary School. She is passionate about Mathematics and working with students from the Normal stream. She noted that many of her students hated Mathematics and did not do well for the subject. Mdm Halimah made the subject come alive for her students by bringing them out of the classroom. She brought them to Changi Airport where she asked her students to mentally calculate flight duration after studying the flight schedules displayed. She also brought them to the supermarket and asked her students to budget for a party based on the items they planned to purchase. Through these field trips, she demonstrated the relevance of Mathematics to their daily lives. Mdm Halimah also believed in working with her colleagues to help them improve the way they taught Mathematics in the classroom. For her commitment and passion for her students, Mdm Halimah was awarded the 2015 President’s Award for Teachers.

7. Another example of an inspiring educator is Mr Low Wei Chuan. He received the Teaching Award in 2009 and is currently teaching at Nan Hua High School. He actively sought out opportunities to cultivate a caring culture in his school. Mr Low started off by building a strong class spirit in his form class. He expanded his efforts to the entire school through mentoring the school’s Care Representatives. He also started Project DREAM, an initiative which provides a platform for students to think of creative ways to establish class unity. Mr Low received the Outstanding Youth in Education Award this year, in recognition of his efforts in the holistic development of his students.

8. Mdm Halimah ignited her students’ interest in Mathematics. Mr Low helped to mould his students' character and values. These inspiring teachers are just some of the many educators who are committed to improving themselves to be effective role models to their students. Like Mdm Halimah and Mr Low, I urge you to constantly reflect on your teaching and seek opportunities to help you hone your craft and be the best teacher that you can be.

Honing Your Craft as Teachers

9. To all awardees, you are about to embark on an exciting new phase of your lives when you proceed to pursue your university studies. Some of you will be heading off to universities in places such as China and the United Kingdom. Some of you will pursue your studies at our local universities, including the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science (Education) (BABSc) Programme offered by the National Institute of Education.

10. I’m pleased that 72 teaching scholars and award holders will be pursuing the BABSc course this year, up from 50 last year. This is a programme that NIE has worked closely with MOE to enhance over the past two years. The result is a 4-year programme that gives our teachers-to-be a distinct edge in becoming masters of effective teaching and learning - by providing them with a good grasp of the fundamentals of education, encouraging reflective practice and developing global perspectives in education.

11. Regardless of your institution of study or chosen discipline, you should seek out opportunities to hone your craft as future educators. Be inquisitive and learn from your professors and peers. By mastering the content knowledge of your teaching subject, you will be more prepared to engage your students to love learning in your classrooms. More importantly, actively participate in the wide range of activities that are available outside of the lecture hall. Dare to take up challenges as apprentice teachers, build up your leadership skills and learn to work with others. These will put you in good stead when you become a teacher.

12. Many of your seniors have capitalised on the many programmes and opportunities available to them. For example, Miss Jo-Anne Seet and Miss Amanda Sarah Chin were enrolled in the BABSc programme last year. As part of their service learning course in NIE, they initiated Project Synthesis, a project that documented the lives of foreign workers in Singapore. Besides organising social activities and interacting with the foreign workers, the project team provided disposable cameras for them to capture their daily lives on film. The project helped Jo-Anne and Amanda Sarah have a better understanding of the struggles of foreign workers and dispel misconceptions that they had of them. They learnt the importance of empathy and this will benefit them as they mentor their students in similar projects when they begin their teaching careers.

Conclusion

13. Recipients, do take the time to reflect as you make your way up this stage to receive your award. The award is not just a recognition of your achievements that has led you to where you are today. More importantly, it is a symbol of you joining the education fraternity, one charged with the mission of moulding the future of the nation. Just as the late founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew said, “…as a country is as good as its citizens, so its citizens are, really, only as good as their teachers”. As you receive your award, do reflect on your education journey thus far and remember the important people in your lives, your loved ones and teachers, who have contributed towards your achievements and success. When you return to teach in our classrooms, you should pay it forward and play a pivotal role in helping your students achieve their fullest potential.

14. To conclude, allow me once again to congratulate all award recipients. We eagerly anticipate your return to impact the lives of future generations of Singaporeans, in partnership with our many dedicated educators.

15. Thank You.

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