Speech by Ng Chee Meng, Acting Minister for Education (Schools) at the Singapore Economic Policy Forum

Published Date: 27 October 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. It gives me great pleasure to join you at this year’s Singapore Economic Policy Forum, jointly organised by the Economic Society of Singapore (ESS) and SMU’s School of Economics.

2. First, I’d like to congratulate ESS on its 60th anniversary this year. Since ESS was formed in 1956, you have made significant contributions to engaging and educating the public on Singapore’s economic issues and challenges. You have done this through publications, conferences and discussions on policy-oriented issues.

Education Supporting Singapore’s Economic Transformation

3. The theme of today’s forum is “Pathways Towards Economic Dynamism and Inclusion: Lessons and Challenges for Singapore”. This timely theme focuses our attention on the real challenges faced by the Singapore economy in the medium-term arising from slower economic growth, a demographic transition and disruptive technology.

4. To overcome these challenges, our economy will require Singaporeans to innovate and create the next big ideas and have an entrepreneurial dare, or spirit, to take calculated risks in order to seize opportunities. They should also have a resilient spirit to be able to deal with failures, where should one fail initially, he is not disheartened but learns quickly from the experience and tries again.

5. How then should our education system prepare our students for this economic transition? We need to equip our young with skills for the future through a forward looking curriculum focusing on strong values and building 21st Century Competencies (21CC). Through these, we want our students to be better able to apply their learning to real-world contexts, be equipped with the knowledge and skills that will help them learn and innovate continually, so that they can be future-ready.

21CC Incorporated into Subjects

6. Since 2012, all academic subjects from the sciences to the humanities and languages, from primary to pre-university levels, have been revised to incorporate the 21CC of Civic Literacy, Global Awareness and Cross-Cultural Skills; Critical and Inventive Thinking; and Communication, Collaboration and Information Skills.

7. This means that our students learn how to apply subject knowledge and skills such as analysis, reasoning, perspective taking, and decision making to real-world scenarios.

Applied Learning within Subjects

8. In Economics, our students learn theories and concepts using an applied and multi-disciplinary approach towards understanding policy making. Case studies present our students with real-world issues in areas such as transportation or housing. Through these case studies, they learn to provide creative solutions to complex socio-economic challenges by applying economic theories as well as some understanding of geography and behavioural sciences.

9. This multi-disciplinary approach to dealing with challenges was reinforced at the recent MOE Economics Student Symposium, where Mr Lim Chow Kiat, Group CIO of GIC, shared that a businessman not only needs to know economics and business concepts, but needs to actively draw on other fields of knowledge such as psychology. His advice struck a chord with the Economics students and teachers in the audience.

10. At Nanyang Junior College, Economics students visit the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to learn about Singapore’s Land Transport Masterplan prior to studying about the topic of market failure. After the visit, the students work in teams to conduct research and present their understanding of the causes and effects of traffic congestion, as well as evaluate whether the solutions are indeed effective. Through this, students get to construct their own understanding of how economic concepts and theories can be applied to solving real-world issues, like making public transportation more efficient through the new bus contracting model.

11. As the Ministry of Transport is my other portfolio, I am personally encouraged that our young people can actively apply theoretical economic principles to something relevant to all of us like transport.

Collaborating with Partners

12. For such authentic learning to take place, we are grateful for the partnership of many of you who have come forward to work with our schools. You provide learning experiences for our students that we can’t do alone. By sharing your personal and professional experiences; hosting learning journeys at your workplaces; or providing expert advice on student projects, you have provided invaluable support for learning.

13. This year, JTC Clean Tech Park linked the Geography teachers with consultancy experts and researchers from Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore and DHI Water & Environment consultancy firm to learn first-hand about seeking viable alternative energy and water sources. These learning journeys enabled our teachers to bring real world case studies into their classrooms and help students to think critically and inventively.

14. Our teachers now plan to bring their students to visit Clean Tech Park to see innovation in action for themselves and to investigate the issues further.

Creating the Joy of Learning Together

15. When learning becomes a journey of discovery and exploration, students will naturally develop an intrinsic motivation to learn and create. By giving them the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills to understand and solve real-world issues, it will help them uncover passion, nurture talent, reduce the over-emphasis on academic results and put joy into learning.

16. To achieve this, we need the support of all stakeholders - parents, industry and the wider community. When students are able to learn about real-world issues through talks and dialogues with industry leaders and professionals, subject content and concepts come alive. At this point of time, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all our partners for your continued and generous support of our student learning programmes. The authentic learning experiences that you have provided for our students have been invaluable - thank you very much!

Outstanding Economics Teacher Award (OETA)

17. Partnerships go beyond student learning and I am pleased to note that ESS actively supports the professional development of Economics teachers and organises outreach activities to engage teachers and students on issues related to Economics. Today, we are here to recognise outstanding Economics teachers through the inaugural Outstanding Economics Teacher Award launched by ESS in August this year, with the support of the Ministry of Education.

18. There is no doubt that we have many outstanding Economics teachers in our schools and I am heartened to learn that there has been overwhelming response for the award - 130 nominations were received from students, teachers, and school leaders for 33 Economics teachers.

19. Today, we will be presenting the OETA to two outstanding Economics teachers who have demonstrated excellence in their field.

20. Ms Deborah How, Head of Arts from Hwa Chong Institution, is a great example of an outstanding Economics educator. Ms How is a firm believer that every teacher should inspire the love for learning. Her students can testify to her amazing ability to make even the most complicated and abstract of ideas tangible and understandable to them. Ms How uses everyday examples and current events to illustrate the applications of Economics in our everyday lives – be it changes in COE prices, or even durian price wars. Her students have also learnt to appreciate how Economics, as a social science, can explain things that may seem irrational, like human behaviour, and how it affects certain decisions made.

21. To further promote the love for Economics in HCI, Ms How set up the Economics Students Exco. This Exco, comprising students passionate about Economics, organises college wide Economics learning activities such as the Humanities Week.

22. Ms How is also well-known amongst her colleagues for being a forward-looking leader who spearheads innovation, and allows room for experimentation. She has initiated “Lesson Study”, which helped fellow teachers study and improve their teaching of Economics through team observations of lessons and reflection.

23. Another outstanding Economics teacher is Mdm Rahimah binte Salim, who is the Lead Teacher of Economics from Anglo-Chinese Junior College.

24. Mdm Rahimah has more than 30 years of experience teaching Economics, so she is acutely aware of the changing profile of students and the evolving learning styles of students. She advocates the use of student-centric pedagogies and guides her colleagues to use seminar-style teaching to make learning more interactive as classes are conducted in smaller groups of 50 or less. She also leads in the review of learning resources that include timely packages for discussion of current issues such as the Brexit and Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

25. Mdm Rahimah has been pivotal in creating a culture at ACJC where students are very much engaged in their learning. She believes strongly in lifelong learning and her list of contributions to the professional development of the Economics fraternity is extensive.

26. At the national level, she is part of the Lead Teachers and Senior Teacher Guild and is active in promoting mentoring as a knowledge and research-informed practice. As a subject facilitator in the Instructional Programme Support Group for Economics teachers, she has led in the sharing of constructivist teaching strategies that encourages students to be actively involved in the process of meaning and knowledge construction.

27. I would also like to congratulate our 5 OETA finalists for their sterling contributions to the teaching and learning of Economics:

  • Mr Richard Bong from Nanyang JC;
  • Mrs Chua Siew Hong from Jurong JC;
  • Mdm Saadiah Binte Abdullah from Serangoon JC
  • Mdm Tan Dai Hwee from Anderson JC; and
  • Mr Tan Kay Song from River Valley High School.

28. I am confident that Ms Deborah How, Mdm Rahimah and our OETA finalists will serve as leaders and role models in our Economics teaching fraternity as they continue to share their best practices in teaching and inspire their fellow colleagues to achieve professional excellence.

29. Once again, I would like to congratulate ESS on its 60th anniversary and applaud its many accomplishments, especially in partnering educational institutions to shape the landscape for Economics education in Singapore. I wish you all a productive session at the Economic Policy Forum 2016.

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