Speech by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Education, at Listening Educator for Advancement and Progress Award (LEAP) Award Presentation Ceremony, at the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Cultural Academy

Published Date: 01 September 2020 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Tan Cheng Gay, president of Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, distinguished guests, award recipients, principals and teachers, ladies and gentlemen.

1. I am very happy to join you today to celebrate the Listening Educator for Advancement and Progress or LEAP Award winners in this simple but meaningful ceremony. Let me start by saying a few words in Mandarin and I will continue in English.

2. 新加坡福建会馆今年欢庆成立180周年,但不幸碰上了新冠疫情。虽然如此,福建会馆却不改180年来贡献社会,热心资助教育的精神,这真的是值得赞扬。

3. 会馆在1849年创办了崇文阁,新加坡第一所华文公学。到了20世纪初期,除了创办道南学校,接办爱同学校,更倡议设立新加坡第一所华文女子学校 ——崇福女校,可见当时会馆领导层不但思想开明、勇于创新、更有打破传统的智慧和勇气。

4. 第二次世界大战后,新加坡必须从废墟中重建。会馆这时重新挑起办教育的重任,分别创办了南侨女中,以及光华学校。办教育需要庞大的经费,但是福建会馆做到了。日复一日、年复一年,始终坚持,没有放弃。没有先贤的坚持,就不会有今天这些具有优良传统的学校,也不会有今天成功的新加坡。所以我们非常感谢会馆这一年来所给新加坡的付出和贡献。

5. 教育是一个国家的基础,这一点我们要紧记于心。我们的重点并不是学生的考试成绩。我们的远大目标是让所有国人都善于终身学习--积极求取知识,愿意适应变化,并且坚守我们的价值观。只有坚持这样推动教育,我们才能确保疫情过后的新加坡能继续繁荣昌盛,新加坡人能继续在世界舞台上展翅高飞。

6. 在此,特别祝贺所有的获奖者,也预祝各位教师节快乐!

7. In a couple of days, we will be celebrating Teachers' Day.

  1. I think this award ceremony is well-timed to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of all our educators.

8. As you heard just now, this is the 9th year for the LEAP Award.

  1. It was first launched by the late President S R Nathan in 2011 and is presented annually by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.
  2. The naming of the award – LEAP Award – is meant to signify the leap of faith taken by teachers, who choose to believe that students have the potential to excel beyond their current capabilities.

9. This year, as you have heard, we have got nearly 300 teachers nominated for the award.

  1. It is a record! This is the highest number of teachers that have ever been nominated so far, in the award history.
  2. Perhaps, this is not surprising, as the saying goes, in the darkest of nights you see the brightest stars.
  3. I suppose in these dark days of Covid-19, we see many stars among Singaporeans, and certainly many stars among our educators. In this exceptional year, we have seen our teachers rise to the occasion and going above and beyond the call of duty.

10. Teachers worked tirelessly everyday to ensure that our students are well-cared for and that our schools remained a safe place.

  1. During the Circuit Breaker, teachers adapted very quickly and rolled out Home-based Learning (HBL). It was a completely new frontier. It is one thing to teach face to face, and it is yet another thing to put yourself on video and have people listen to you on video. It is a completely different skill set but our teachers rallied together and supported one another to ensure that learning continued for all our students.
  2. If I were to share with you the good work that has been done by all our teachers, I think we will easily be here for the whole night. So allow me to share just two stories of exceptional contributions by our teachers on the ground.

11. First, during the Circuit Breaker, when schools were closed, there were a handful of students who had to go back to school. They either came from families where parents were essential workers or were unable to find care arrangements for them, or they came from more vulnerable households. Our teachers helped to keep schools open to care for these students.

  1. One example is Mdm Nur Fazalina Binte Hussin from Kranji Primary School.
  1. As the Year Head, she put together a care plan for the students and she went the extra mile to ensure that students lacking the necessary IT equipment could loan a device from school.
  2. Recognising that some of her students' home environments were not conducive for learning, she made it a point to check on them everyday.
  3. She also spearheaded the JumpStart@Kranji programme to step up support for students' well-being.
  4. Mdm Fazalina's care extends to more than her students. To her fellow teachers, especially new teachers who just started on their teaching journey, she is like a big sister. Her positive spirit, constant encouragement and guidance has helped to welcome and orientate them to the school.

12. My other story is about a teacher at Northlight School. In Northlight School, most of the teaching needs to be conducted onsite due to the hands-on nature of applied learning. So both teachers and students found HBL during Circuit Breaker to be extra challenging.

  1. However, Mr Lawrence Alphonsus Yeo, found ways to engage his students in innovative ways.
  1. He made lessons fun by structuring math questions around the gameshow "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?". He uses different techniques to make it more interesting for the students.
  2. As the Year Head, he ensured that students on financial assistance were provided with meals during HBL and helped to ease the burden on the family's finances.
  3. Many of his students struggled with difficult relationships; some of them came from broken and more challenging family backgrounds. He took the time and effort to be a listening ear and a steady source of advice. He constantly urged them to look beyond their current difficulties and to focus on their strengths and future opportunities.

13. We are happy that Mdm Fazalina and Mr Yeo, alongside other teachers who are here, this year, are recognized with the LEAP awards. I can't tell all your stories, like I've said, or we will be here for a long time. I've just selected two, but all of you have very inspiring stories, and without you, we certainly would not be able to continue with teaching and learning during this pandemic. Let's put our hands together once again to congratulate our award recipients.

14. Today, as we continue to fight the virus, the fight is not over, and our teachers are also continuing to work very hard. We are continuing to finish the syllabus in school and we are preparing students for their year end exams, while ensuring the necessary preparations and safeguards are in place to keep our students safe.

  1. We know this has not been an easy time for our educators on the frontline. We thank all of you for your hard work, for your effort and dedication in doing the best for our students.

15. Furthermore, I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and to congratulate you on your major milestone – your 180th anniversary!

  1. There is clearly one thing that the Huay Kuan stands out in its long history of nearly 200 years. You are no stranger to challenges and crisis. For nearly 200 years, you have seen Singapore through thick and thin and you have gone through war and peace. You are no stranger to tough times and you certainly have stood the test of time throughout these years, stayed true to your values and made significant contribution to our education landscape.
  2. The pioneers of the Huay Kuan over the decades have shown wisdom, courage and resilience to lead the community to constantly adapt, change and innovate in response to changing circumstances. They serve as an inspiration to all of us in the education fraternity, especially in this time of crisis.

16. I am confident that our educators too will exemplify this same spirit of solidarity, innovation and resilience – to prepare all our students and to support them in realising their fullest potential. On that note, let me once again congratulate all our award winners, and I wish all of you a very Happy Teachers' Day in advance. Thank you very much.

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