Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister for Education (Schools) at the 2017 Teaching Scholarship Presentation Ceremony

Published Date: 28 July 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. I am glad to be here once again to attend the Teaching Scholarship Presentation Ceremony. This year, I am happy to announce that 125 young people have been awarded the MOE Teaching Scholarship and Teaching Award.

Making your first steps as an educator

2. To the scholarship and award recipients receiving your certificates today, this ceremony not only marks the outcome of your scholarship application. More importantly, it marks the first steps that you will be making as you embark on your journey as a teacher.

3. As a teacher, you will have heavy responsibilities being entrusted with the duty to shape the lives of future generations of Singaporeans. But you can take heart that you will have a special fraternity of like-minded individuals – our MOE educators – to be alongside. Why do I call this a special group? I would like to highlight three reasons:

  1. First, we have charged them with the very special and important role of enabling, leading and inspiring the learning of our students. This is not just about the learning of specific subjects. Equally important, it is also about the broader skills, attitudes and values that will prepare our students for work and life. We have also charged our educators to help our students find passion and joy in their learning. Yes, knowing the answers to examination questions is important. But equally important is the ability to ask good questions, learn from failure and mistakes, and the courage to innovate – to find new and better ways of doing things.

  2. Second, our educators are highly focused on their mission. In my time at the Ministry Of Education, I have had many opportunities to interact with educators. This has included classroom teachers, heads of departments, year heads, senior teachers, school leaders and HQ staff. Their mission-mindedness has never failed to impress me. No matter which area they are working on, they are committed to bringing out the best in our students, and are always looking for new ways to better do this. In my school visits, I am always amazed at the carefully thought-through and innovative programmes - in academic areas, co-curricular activities and pastoral programmes. All put in place with lots of thought and heart to support the holistic development of our students.

  3. Third, our education fraternity is one that supports and cares deeply for one another. In school, we have mentors to share their wisdom and lend a listening ear to beginning teachers or less experienced colleagues who face challenging situations. Our educators also share experiences and resources with one another and participate in self-led and joint learning activities, supporting each other in professional growth. MOE even has its own Academy of Singapore Teachers, which champions the professional development of our educators.

Following in the footsteps of exemplary educators

4. Let me share with you two examples of educators, who in their own special ways, embody the qualities that I have mentioned earlier. Mr Chiew Jing Wen is the Head of Department of Humanities at Serangoon Garden Secondary School. He was awarded the Teaching Scholarship in 2004. He is a firm believer of discipline and tough love. When he took on the role of Acting Discipline Master, he had to cane a student who had committed a serious offence. Jing Wen did not just mete out the punishment; he took the opportunity to speak with the student and asked him to reflect on the choices he had made. And that made a difference; the student understood and has not committed any further offence. Jing Wen is also passionate about helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds. He worked with industry partners such as Infinite Studios to expose students to possible career paths in the media industry. He cares deeply for his students and creates opportunities for them to develop networks and skills to help them succeed in life. In recognition of his efforts to help his students, Jing Wen received the Outstanding Youth in Education Award this year.

5. Another example of an inspiring educator is Mdm Lyvenne Phoon. She is the School Staff Developer at Spectra Secondary School. She came from a troubled family and faced many difficulties as a child. Despite the challenges she faced, both academically and financially, she pressed on. She became an entrepreneur before joining teaching at the age of 37. She tapped on her business background and introduced many innovative programmes in Spectra Secondary School. These include the Garden-Based Service Learning Programme, where students worked in the school’s rooftop garden. Lyvenne also asked her students to start a hamper-making business, to raise funds for the National Kidney Foundation. She drew strength from adversity, and beyond subjects, teach “life”. For her commitment to teaching her students skills and values relevant to the real world, Lyvenne received the President’s Award for Teachers in 2016.

6. Lyvenne and Jing Wen are just two of the many teachers who demonstrate the passion and commitment to their students. There are many Lyvennes and Jing Wens out there, doing good work in our schools.

Growing from strength to strength

7. Our education system is only as strong as the quality of our teachers, so we must not take the many good teachers we have for granted. This is why MOE continues to strive to recruit good people to join the education service. This includes giving scholarships and awards to outstanding young men and women. I trust that by accepting our scholarship offer, you will be committed to carrying on the good work of the many teachers who have walked the same path.

8. As you embark on an exciting new phase in your lives, I encourage you to actively seek out opportunities for personal growth, especially during your university years. Your seniors have capitalised on the many programmes and opportunities available to them. For example, Mr Teoh Jia Yu and Miss Teo Ying Hui are Year Three Teaching Scholars who are pursuing their studies in Peking University in China. They joined the Zhixing Volunteer Teaching Group (智星支教队), a non-governmental organisation which provides education to children from migrant families living in Beijing. They had to think of innovative strategies to teach the English Language to the students. They incorporated games, songs and storytelling to interest the students. Through their volunteering experience, Jia Yu and Ying Hui have gained a better understanding of the Chinese education system and learnt lifeskills such as being resourceful and steadfast when dealing with obstacles along the way. More importantly, they learnt to appreciate the uniqueness of each child they taught and built strong relationships with the students under their charge. These are important lessons that they will be able to bring back when they return to teach in our Singapore schools.

9. The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tze, once said, and I quote in Mandarin, “千里之行,始于足下”. It means that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. As you make your way up this stage to receive your award, you will be making that first step to joining a special fraternity. The journey that you will be taking will be an exciting and purposeful one. Some days may be more difficult than others as you may face a challenging student or a difficult parent. Despite the challenges, there will be many more days when you will feel immense satisfaction, when you see your students’ eyes light up when they finally understand a difficult concept, overcome a personal challenge, or when they show appreciation to you for having made a difference in their lives.

10. As you embark on your undergraduate studies, whether in Singapore or overseas, take the time to build up your mastery of subjects, cultivate your own joy of learning so that when you teach, you not only impart your subject knowledge and instil in your students a joy of learning and a love of the subject. Stay in touch with what is happening around the world and in Singapore. Reflect on what education means to you and what kind of educator you want to be. Seek to understand our country, our region and the world better, so you can be a better guide to your students as they explore and discover the world around them for themselves. When you return, I look forward to you Leading, Caring and Inspiring our students.

11. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my heartiest congratulations to all award recipients and their loved ones on this special occasion. We eagerly anticipate your return to our schools and wish you the best in your education journey ahead.

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