Speech by Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, at the National Institute of Education Teachers’ Investiture Ceremony

Published Date: 05 July 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. I am delighted to be here for the Teachers’ Investiture Ceremony. This is your special moment and I’m happy to welcome more than 1,000 new teachers to the teaching fraternity. My heartiest congratulations to all of you.

2. Today, you will start an exciting, new chapter in your lives. As teachers, you have a direct, and profound impact on your students. The teaching profession is a noble one – not only will you teach your students, you will also shape their beliefs and have the opportunity to nurture them. I know, not because I was a teacher, but because I was once a student.

3. As you embark on this new journey today, I would like to share three key elements which I hope will keep your heartbeat to be a teacher strong:

  1. First, you are key to your students’ learning. You can make that difference.
  2. Second, you are most effective when you are anchored on your mission, driven by your passion and your care.
  3. Third, you are part of a larger, caring community – like-minded professionals supported by the camaraderie and espirit de corps, which will keep you going. Yes, you will shoulder heavy responsibilities as teachers, but know that you are not doing this alone.

You are key to your student’s learning

4. As a teacher, you are key to your students’ learning. You are an expert in your subject. You are key to your students’ specific learning. More importantly, to equip our children for the uncertain future, you need to teach beyond your subject. You need to teach our children the knowledge, skills, and attitudes not just for school, but to prepare them for work and life so that they can thrive in a new and challenging environment.

5. You are key to help your students find passion and joy in what they are learning, not just to study to tackle exams, or score good grades. This must begin with you. Cultivate a joy of learning in yourselves and let your students see your passion in the subjects you teach. Be a positive example of how an individual can find joy in learning.

6. Many of our students look for the right answers; often missing the first and perhaps, the more crucial step of learning – asking the right questions. In your teaching, do you challenge students to ask the right questions? Do you encourage them to ask questions that will provoke their thinking and imagination? Is learning about the answer or is learning more about asking the right questions? Doing so will help them find their own answers, and in the process, help them appreciate the beauty and intricacies of what they are learning and the journey of learning.

7. In this way, learning is no longer limited to what they read in their textbooks. It comes alive for them. It becomes an enriching experience, an exciting discovery process. This is teaching towards the joy of learning.

8. For our children to be future ready, to push boundaries, or create new knowledge, our students need to have a “can do, dare to try” spirit and embrace failing as a step closer to success. This comes hand-in-hand with nurturing the joy of learning in our students. Many of you have heard me say that we would like to develop in our students an “entrepreneurial dare” – an attitude, a mindset of pushing boundaries, of wanting to innovate and to find a breakthrough.

9. As teachers, no matter what you teach, you are key to creating an environment that would encourage your students to take risks, so that they can be nimble, flexible, and resilient. During Physical Education (PE) lessons, you can create an environment where our students take risks, strengthen their bodies and character, and take on challenges. Through PE, you can help students build character, which is critical to education. This again begins with you. Have the courage to try new ways of teaching and reaching out to your students; have a try- fail- try mentality. The result need not be perfect from the onset. Instead, see your efforts as a process and progress, understand that each step taken, even if the initial result is not satisfactory, is one step closer to the desired outcome.

10. In the same way, let your students have a safe space to try-fail-try. In and outside your classrooms, create that safe space where students can experiment, challenge the status quo, and find new and better ways of doing things. They will learn from their mistakes and try again and again until they succeed. Nurture in our students a “Never say die, never give up attitude”. Over time, you may be pleasantly surprised with the solutions they can come up with!

Anchored on your mission, driven by passion and care

11. I have interacted with educators for quite some time and I am always impressed by their sense of mission - moulding the future of our nation. I hope you know the importance of the profession and the noble role that teachers play. I know that teachers carry this mission with them, and this is key to why they are so effective in what they do.

12. At your students’ level, what matters is not so much your mission, but that they know and see that you care. I recently heard a comment that a teacher said to his student: “I don’t teach subjects, I teach life”.

13. It reminded me of a story of a young boy who was discovering his way in life in secondary school. He encountered a time of family difficulty when his father was retrenched. In the confusing period of growing up and with many life questions, he had a very good teacher. She was not only skilled at the subject she taught, she also taught the boy about life, through her care and passion. She lived out the ethos of the teaching profession by walking the talk. Through her actions and words, she taught life.

14. Indeed, as teachers, you are most effective when you are the example for your students to follow. You can influence your students’ lives in rich and intangible ways. This impact is far reaching beyond their schooling years. Your words of affirmation and encouragement, to persevere and push through difficult times will become an inspiration and cherished memories that they will treasure years after they graduate.

15. How do I know this? Because I was that young boy. And this teacher made that difference in my life.

You are part of a larger and caring community

16. The third element to keep a strong heartbeat as a teacher is for you to know that you are now part of a larger community – a fraternity of dedicated educators that will support and embrace you as you begin your journey.

17. This is an exciting journey for all of you sitting here today. In teaching, there will be rewarding and touching moments, but there will also be challenging and trying moments. Do not lose heart along the way. I am confident that each one of you have what it takes to be inspiring and caring teachers. Your training in NIE has provided you with a strong foundation.

18. Equally important, know that you have a strong network of support and mentors available to you. When the going gets tough, know that you are not alone – experienced colleagues and senior teachers will always be ready to lend a helping hand. Make a conscious effort to build quality collective relationships and uplift one another in the process.

19. As one MOE family, we are also here to support you and help you be effective in what you do. There are resources available to help you. One example is the recently-launched Singapore Teaching Practice. The STP brings together the beliefs and practices of our educators over 50 years to articulate how effective teaching and learning can be achieved in our classrooms. There would also be opportunities to learn from your peers, and contribute and share your ideas with them.


20. As you prepare for your new role, begin with the end in mind. When you meet your students many years later, what would you hope to see - That he has scored all As? That he has achieved a strong academic foundation? That he has a heart of gratitude, and the consciousness to be a values-centred and purpose-driven individual; that he is a confident adult who values relationships and is able to collaborate and work well with others?

21. Whatever your answer may be, know that you are key to your students’ growth. Your sense of purpose, your passion and care, speak louder than words. When you encounter challenges and disappointment, be reminded that there are fellow educators and MOE walking alongside with you. Most importantly, remember that you can make a difference.

22. I have left school for many years now, but I still remember the teachers that touched my life fondly. My teachers have played an important part in shaping who I am today. They made a difference. You too, can go forward to shape the future of our nation, and make a difference to the young lives that pass through your hands.

23. Congratulations once again to the class of 2017. Welcome to the education fraternity and I wish all of you a successful and meaningful career ahead!

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