Address by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister for Education (Schools) at the 7th Arts Education Conference 2016

Published Date: 16 November 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. A very good morning to all and a warm welcome to our overseas speakers. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 7th Arts Education Conference organised by the Singapore Teachers’ Academy for the Arts; STAR in short. I understand that this is a biennial conference where art and music teachers come together as a community to share their learning and experiences. We welcome our overseas friends to give us an outside-in perspective on arts education and how Singapore art and music teachers can further impact and influence our students.

2. I would like to share my thoughts in three areas. First is that collaboration can generate big and innovative ideas. The collective power to imagine possibilities for the future is far stronger than the power of one. Learning in the arts encourages collaboration, and deepens connections among people and communities. Through that, creative works flourish. The process of collaboration also makes arts learning a joyful experience among students and like-minded colleagues.

3. My second point is that when people share stories about their learning, their stories build community. When passionate arts educators gather to share stories of joy and struggles about their teaching and learning, the exchange builds trust and respect among peers. The community also becomes more supportive and vibrant, bringing people together across time, regardless of race, language or religion. Teachers are role models for their students and they show how individuals become part of a larger whole. Teachers should not under-estimate their impact in the classroom.

4. Third, I would like to encourage teachers to continue to tap on the transformative power of the arts, to influence and impact our students’ lives. As we move towards SG100, your stories add to the larger narrative of the Singapore story. When stories of courage - of rising from failure and trying again - transform the way we think and live, we create new meaning and purpose for the students’ lives we touch. As teachers of art and music, you are able to strengthen the social and emotional aspects of your students and influence the way they connect with others in the community.

CREATING ARTS-ENRICHED LIVES

5. Arts bring people together. Let me share with you how a group of secondary art teachers from the West 2 Cluster did that. Since 2012, the W2 Cluster Art Group has been showcasing their students’ artworks in public spaces. This year, they have invited two more schools to create a collaborative art project. The schools involved are Hillgrove Secondary School, Yusof Ishak Secondary School, Swiss Cottage Secondary School, Jurongville Secondary School, and Kranji Secondary School. Together they explored ideas, played with materials, and discovered new ways of artistic expression. But this is not the end of the collaborative art project: all of them engaged their community by doing a group exhibition at the Jurong Regional Library. The students were also confident enough, thanks to their teachers, to facilitate community art activities for the visitors.

6. Like art-making, leading singing is key for music teachers, especially at the primary level. In 2014, STAR started the Engaging with Songs programme to broaden teachers’ musical experiences and deepen their understanding in teaching singing. The school-based participation in the programme built a sense of community amongst the music teachers. This became enablers for professional inquiry and collaboration. The teachers were able to unpack effective scaffolding for singing that better support their lesson delivery. Their students enjoyed singing and learning about different cultures through songs. In fact, two schools on board the Engaging with Songs programme, Pei Tong and Tampines Primary, will be sharing their experiences later today at the concurrent sessions.

CELEBRATING GOOD ARTS TEACHING

7. I am pleased to see that 16 Art and Music teachers are featured in a publication that is launched today. The publication celebrates arts teachers committed to quality arts teaching. Titled PORTRAITS II: Narratives of Singapore Arts Educators, this volume joins the first volume to document stories of arts teacher-leaders. These stories connect the arts teaching fraternity. Many of the stories show what teacher-leadership means in the arts and how arts educators transform learning experiences for our young people.

8. One of the teachers featured is Mdm Gan Ai Lee. As the Subject Head of Art from Endeavour Primary School, Ai Lee firmly believes that each child brings unique experiences that can enrich learning for everyone. In her art classes, students are expressing their own ideas through art discussions and in art-making. They like to ask lots of questions! She does not attempt to quiet their inquisitive minds. Instead, she leverages on the power of questioning, to trigger her students’ innate sense of curiosity and wonderment. As a teacher-leader, Ai Lee also encourages fellow art teachers to constantly inquire about their teaching practice. She facilitates workshops for art teachers, engaging them in conversations about art teaching, to further deepen their professional capabilities and pedagogical knowledge. Keep it up, Ai Lee.

9. I strongly encourage all of you to create your own stories of success, and share these stories so others may learn and be inspired. Be the difference in our students’ lives. Be an everyday advocate for arts teaching. Show how the arts can make a difference to the hearts and minds of our students. Remember what brought you into teaching. Keep that passion alive.

MEANINGFUL PROFESSIONAL LEARNING

10. I would also like to thank the School Leaders for supporting your art and music teachers’ professional growth. You have allowed them the time and space to deepen their learning to become more dynamic arts teachers. These decisions better the quality of teachers in our service.

11. Since 2011, a good number of qualified primary school arts teachers have gained their qualifications from the Art and Music Teachers Practitioner Programmes. These are teachers who have no prior pre-service training in art and music, and they enroll in the Practitioner Programmes for their preparation to fulfil the admission criteria to the in-service Advanced Diploma in Primary Art and Music Education.

12. Mdm Rebecca Lau received wholehearted support from her school leader to enrol in the inaugural Advanced Diploma in Primary Music Education in 2011. Whilst the four-month hiatus may seem a long time away from school, it is a well-worth investment. Feeling recharged, Rebecca re-designed her school’s music curriculum upon her return as a qualified music teacher. She deepened her understanding of music pedagogy. Soon, she was appointed as her cluster’s STAR Champion, strengthening other teachers. Today, Rebecca is a confident Senior Teacher with Palm View Primary School. She is generous in coaching younger colleagues in the fraternity, especially Music Beginning Teachers. Her passion, resilience and willingness to share, as well as her School Leaders’ support, contributed to quality music learning in our primary schools.

13. Another example is Mdm Aliah Hanim. She is an Art Senior Teacher from Queenstown Primary School. She has immersed herself in different professional development courses, including the Art Teacher Practitioner Programme and the Advanced Diploma in Primary Art Education. The rich learning has allowed her to grow professionally, and teach art better. For example, a module on the Artistic Development of Children has helped her understand why students make art the way they do. Aliah has also been a teacher-leader with the STAR Champions programme since its inception in 2012. She recently completed the Senior Teachers’ Milestone programme for Art, and is now excited to share with fellow art teachers her experiences and expertise.

14. I am pleased to note that many of our teachers continue to upgrade themselves and make unlearning and learning a part of their professional growth. The journey begins here with the collective wisdom to create new lesson ideas, stronger teacher networks, and firm collegiality ties that bind.

15. Art and music teachers do not just teach the subjects per se. You build the socio-emotional competencies of the child who learns more about life’s perspective to live it more fully. You create the foundations to anchor ideas appreciating and understanding life’s diversity. Art and music provides expression for that creative energy in our children’s joyful learning, the imaginative discovery to find solutions in tomorrow’s complex world, and the sense of rootedness that anchors our society.

CONCLUSION

16. On that note, I would like to thank the Singapore Teachers’ Academy for the aRts for the effort put in to organise the 7th Arts Education Conference, and put on record my appreciation to our presenters for taking time to share your insights and ideas. Building communities and connections goes beyond our schools. It involves collaboration with arts partners and artists, some of whom are here today. We look forward to continuing this partnership to impact arts teachers’ professional development.

17. Enjoy your learning today. Thank you.

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