Speech by Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing at Teaching Scholarship Presentation Ceremony 2022, at Orchard Hotel Singapore

Published Date: 04 August 2022 01:30 PM

News Speeches

1. A very good afternoon to all of you. First, let me congratulate our award recipients today. As I have said at the recent PSC scholarship award ceremony, our scholarships are not a reward of past performance. Instead, they are a recognition of your potential to contribute and a reflection of your commitment to serve and lead.

2. So, thank you all for stepping forward to serve. The results of the work that all of you do for our country and our people may not be immediately apparent. Instead we may only be able to see the outcomes in a generation's time.

Rapid Changes in the World of Teaching and Learning

3. Today, I wanted to share with you some of the rapid changes in the world of teaching and learning. Our world of teaching and learning has changed and will continue to change rapidly. The knowledge and skills required for tomorrow will certainly be different from what we have gotten used to today, and different from what we were used to before.

4. What we are familiar with today will soon be outdated faster than we think. So it is important to be aware of these challenges and changes, to prepare us for the road ahead. First, your role is no longer limited to the physical classroom; it would be much more than that and I'll explain why. The teaching fraternity of tomorrow will be able to do much more and will need to do much more in our life-cycle approach to teaching and learning -- from preschool to primary school, secondary school, post-secondary, to institutions and thereafter, to continue learning for life. And our teaching fraternity must rise to this challenge.

5. So these are some of the challenges and changes that I see us working on in the coming years, which you will be deeply involved in when you complete your studies and join the teaching fraternity.

Envisioning the Future of Teaching and Learning

Teachers at the heart of change

6. First, our teaching fraternity is already going beyond being a transmitter of knowledge. Teaching is no longer just the transmission of knowledge, and learning is no longer just the receiving of knowledge. Our teachers are facilitators to help our students acquire new knowledge, and to sense make from all the available information. Today, access to information has already been commoditised, the premium that our students can command is not knowledge per se, and certainly not yesterday's knowledge. Instead, the premium comes from the ability to collaborate, connect, and create.

7. So this will require our teaching fraternity to have new skill sets to help our students realise their potential through collaboration, creativity and connection. With technological advances, we are connected digitally more than ever before, but we also face the challenge of making sense of this bewildering world, and remaining grounded by our values that we hold dear.

8. How do we help our students navigate an increasingly complex world? This will be a big challenge for the next generation and we will need new skillsets for our teachers. But what will not change is the commitment to the values that we hold. The teaching methods may change, the content may change, but our values remain constant. So it is important for our teachers to be able to help our students navigate these changes, while anchoring them in a solid foundation and inculcating in them the kind of values that we want them to have for the rest of their lives.

9. Second, our teaching fraternity must be able to master the new digital and adaptive technologies, and other technologies to enrich the learning experiences of our children. And to stretch each of them to their fullest potential. Now it may be easy to say that we want each and every child to realise their full potential. It is also perhaps easy for us to say that we want to stretch each and every one of them according to their potential. But in order for us to do that, then we have to change and evolve the way we teach.

10. We will need to embrace new technologies to scale up the classes where we can, and to share the resources where possible. So that we can focus our time and leadership bandwidth on higher-need students. We will need to adopt adaptive technologies that allow our students to self-pace and learn according to their capabilities. For those who are more able, we will stretch them further. For those who need a bit more help, we need to be able to devote the resources to help them establish the necessary foundations. And this is why going forward, our teaching fraternity must master many of these new emerging technologies to enrich teaching and learning. At the same time, this will free up the resources for us to focus on higher-need students, and to stretch those students with higher potential even further.

11. So we need to prioritise our resources and direct them to where they are most needed. We will need to embrace the use of data to focus our teaching. Just to give an example, Singapore Polytechnic (SP) has already done away with lectures. They are using asynchronous methods: the lectures are freely available on the Internet. When the students access the lectures at their own time and at their own speed, SP collects data on the learning progress of our students. So when the students come back to class, they are able to focus their time and resources on the areas of needs for the respective classes and students.

12. This will not stop at SP. Our other Institutes of Higher Learning, and soon our schools must also be able to adapt and adopt some of these technologies in order for us to stretch the potential of each and every child.

13. Third, our teaching fraternity must be able to pool and share their teaching resources across the system. Today, we have already started doing this with the Student Learning Space (SLS). But we can do much more. To share an idea that I heard from China -- the teachers are free to put onto their SLS equivalent, the learning systems and curriculum that they have, for everyone else in the fraternity to share and to learn. And through this market-oriented approach, they are able to figure out which are the most popular modules, the most innovative teaching methods that can applied and shared across the entire fraternity.

14. This is something that we can and should aspire towards. And we will be able to confidently say that we will never be alone, in trying to figure out the best curriculum for our students. This is because we will have this pool of shared resources from the best teachers, with the best teaching practices that can elevate our respective professional practice, even if we are a new teacher. You will be able to tap into the experience of older, more seasoned teachers, and combining them with innovative ways to connect with another generation of students.

Partnering Stakeholders

15. So it is an exciting future of us all. However, we can't do all of these alone. We can't define the new world of teaching and learning just by focusing internally on what MOE and our teachers do. And we will need to have a broader perspective of how we cooperate with others in the system upstream and downstream for us to truly realise the vision of lifelong learning.

16. For a start, our teachers will need to be equipped with the skills to work with other community partners to establish the strong socio-emotional foundation of our children, even before they enter our school system. The study on Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) has already shown us the criticality of the early years – from diet, nutrition, to stimulation and a nurturing environment that sparks the curiosity of the child to inculcate lifelong learning habits. So we can't just work alone at MOE. We will need to work with other partners upstream to establish the foundation for our children.

17. And to this end, we will also want to work on a more seamless continuum between our pre-school system and the school system where each builds on and complements the other's efforts. For this to happen, there needs to be closer collaboration and a better handover, a better handshake, of the developmental needs of our young children from one part of the system to the next. We will have 60 MOE Kindergartens (MKs) by 2027, providing over 8,000 K1 places. We have introduced TRANsition Support for InTegration (TRANSIT in short) last year to help P1 students who have social and behavioural difficulties to learn self-management skills. These will be in all primary schools by 2026. So you can see for us, success is not just how well we do within the MOE system. These two things that I mentioned about moving upstream to work with other social partners to prepare our students for the school system will be increasingly necessary. Without the proper social emotional foundations established in the early years, it will be that much harder for us in MOE to build on and to bring out the potential of our children.

18. But that is not all. We also need to go downstream. Our teaching fraternity will need to partner the community and parents to create an enabling and supportive environment for all our children. Teachers can partner parents in emphasizing the holistic development and the importance of valuing the unique strengths of every child, and broadening our definition of success, and thereby reducing an excessive focus on just the academics. Schools can partner the community to provide our children with more opportunities for Values-in-Action (VIA) activities and student attachments. So again, it's not about us doing it alone. We will need to acquire the skillsets to work with others in partnership to bring out the best in our children.

Staying relevant and refreshed

19. Last but not least, our teaching fraternity of tomorrow will need to have the breadth and depth of experiences to know where the market needs are, and guide our young ones in their future career choices. Our teaching fraternity will need the breadth and depth of industry connections to remain current and relevant.

20. Therefore, I encourage teachers to take up the initiative to participate in the Teacher Work Attachment Plus (TWA+) Initiative. Every few years, make it a discipline for us to go out and experience something new, recharge ourselves, and bring back something new to the schools to enrich the learning environment, and inspire our children. Because I know once you join the teaching fraternity, you will give your all for our children. But even as you nurture our students, it is our responsibility and my wish that you too, will continue to grow.

21. But we must structure this. This is why I've been visiting the schools to talk to the principals, getting the buy-in from everyone. Of course, it requires effort for us to be disciplined in order to send our people out for exposure. But I will say this: the day when our teachers stop learning and growing will also be the day when our children stop learning and growing. Because when our teachers grow, when they have the sparkle in their eyes, and want to keep learning, they become the best role models for our children to want to learn for life. When they see our teachers learning new things, even at their age, they will be inspired to keep learning. When they see our teachers learning new things beyond what is taught in school, they too will be inspired to keep learning beyond what we teach in the curriculum.

22. So these are the reasons why I want to make sure that as you join the education fraternity, you continue to grow. You will be the best testimonies of lifelong learning and inspiration for our children to learn beyond the academics.

Conclusion

23. So if you take a step back to where I started, the world of teaching and learning is undergoing tremendous change. But they are exciting changes, with exciting opportunities to seize. And this is why when you take on this scholarship, it is not a reward for your past performance. It's your commitment to lead the change for the next lap. Our path to keep improving our Singapore education system never stops. You will now join the fraternity, take the baton, and keep running the good race for us to keep improving our system, for us to truly realise our vision to bring out the best in each and every child. Not just in the first 15 years of their school life, but to establish their foundations of success for the next 50 years of their life beyond the school system. But do not worry, you will not do this alone, and no one can do this alone.

24. For MOE to deliver on our mission, each and every one of us will bring different skill sets to the table but together as a team, as one MOE team, we will get the job done. When each and every one of you go out, learn something new, learn something different, we will have the diversity of strengths to take our education system forward. I have often narrated the story of how the US Special Forces select their people. Many have the misguided impression that the US Special Forces select people based on physical strength. That is furthest from the truth. To be considered for the US Special Forces, every candidate must bring with them a unique skillset to add to the diversity of the team. So that they constantly have the diversity of strengths to surprise and overcome the opponent.

25. For us, we can aspire to have each and every one of you come back from your studies, not just excelling academically, with having acquired special skill sets that can enrich the teaching fraternity. And that is what I look forward to. Because with that, we will achieve the breakthrough that we want for the next step of education. How far we can go as a country will depend on how we can unlock the potential of our people and how able we are to build those talent networks to complement our people's strengths and overcome their weaknesses.

26. So to all our recipients today, I hope that you and the rest of our teaching fraternity will be at the forefront of this transformation. Finally, I thank you once again for your service to our nation and I wish you all the best in your education.

27. Thank you very much.

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