March 07, 2017
MOE FY 2017 Committee of Supply Debate Speech by Minister of Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng
1. Madam Speaker, Members have raised pertinent questions about our school system, and how we are preparing our children for the future.
READYING OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM FOR THE FUTURE
2. Education is a key strength of our society and economy. Our school system produces good educational outcomes, and is internationally respected. It is inclusive and ensures that all young Singaporeans, regardless of background, have access to good educational opportunities. Our students have done very well in international studies such as TIMSS and PISA, which emphasise application, reasoning and problem-solving skills.
3. We take a long view of education, constantly reviewing what and how we teach to cater to the aspirations and needs of our students, and the needs of our economy. For example, we are focusing more on 21st Century Competencies such as critical and inventive thinking, and soft skills such as communication skills and cultural awareness.
4 At the core of our education are values and character. They anchor and guide our students in navigating the uncertainties and challenges of the future. Last year, we introduced daily cleaning in schools to instil in our children a stronger sense of personal and social responsibility. I am glad this has been well-received by parents and educators alike.
5. We owe a big part of our success to our professional and dedicated educators. Every time I meet them, I see them striving to bring out the best in every child. They never fail to amaze me with their ideas and hard work. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our principals, teachers, past and present, for putting so much heart into all that they do.
6. Our mission in MOE is to mould the future of the nation by moulding the people who will determine the future of our nation. This is not just MOE’s work, but the collective work of educators, parents and the wider community. Together, we want to build in our children a strong foundation of knowledge, skills and values that will enable them to chase their dreams.
7. Debates on how we are changing our education system like this one here today will become more important, as the world is changing at an unprecedented rate. Ms Denise Phua asked how we will help schools, educators and students respond to a VUCA world. In my conversations with employers, parents and educators, many are likewise concerned and want to know how the education system will better prepare our young for the future.
8. The Committee for Future Economy (CFE) recently outlined a roadmap on how we need to evolve to meet the economic challenges of the future. What do all these structural shifts mean for our young, and for Education?
- In the area of knowledge and skills, our young need to develop deep skills, and to continue to update these skills and acquire new ones to stay relevant. Lifelong learning is key.
- In terms of qualities and attitudes, they have to be more adaptable to re-skill themselves as needed. They have to be more resilient to navigate the many unknown changes and uncertainties ahead. They also have to be more enterprising so that they can innovate and create value.
9. By making a big push towards lifelong learning, we have already started laying the groundwork for the changes ahead. Last year, Minister Ong and I spoke about making a paradigm shift away from an over-emphasis on academic grades, to focus on holistic education. While academic excellence is a key strength of our system, it should not be over-emphasised, at the expense of other meaningful activities.
10. Let me share the broad directions I have set for our schools to better prepare our children for the future.
- First, we must nurture the joy of learning in our children. This intrinsic motivation will drive them forward to explore and discover their interests and passions.
- Second, develop in them an entrepreneurial dare, so they will go beyond the classroom, apply their learning to real world contexts, and pursue their passions.
- Third, develop deep skills and expertise. Minister Ong will outline our plans in the higher education landscape, to enable learning at every stage of life. To support these plans, we must lay strong foundations in school and help our students develop their passions into strengths, and to their fullest potential.
- Fourth, all these efforts must be founded upon sound values and character. I agree with Dr Intan completely on this. We want to nurture individuals who are not only successful, but also committed to their family, to serving our communities, and to Singapore’s future.
- Lastly, we must continue to ensure equal access to opportunities for all our children, regardless of background.
DISCOVERING INTERESTS, GROWING PASSIONS
Joy of Learning
11. Let me elaborate on the joy of learning: we believe in nurturing the joy of learning so that every child can discover his interests, grow his passions, and love what he is doing. School should not just be about doing well in exams. It should be an exciting place to acquire knowledge and skills, where learning is fun and with the necessary rigour.
12. How are our schools changing our teaching practices and methods to foster this Joy of Learning? We have taken two key approaches:
- One, we are encouraging learning through play at the start of every child’s education. When I visit schools, I am always delighted to see how engaged and energised our primary school students are, when they learn not only in the classroom, but also out in the school gardens, through field trips, outdoor games. The Programme for Active Learning in every primary school provides varied and fun learning experiences, combining classroom learning with outdoor activities to stimulate interest and curiosity.
- Two, we are encouraging more applied learning among our upper primary and secondary school students, so that they do not just learn theories, but get to apply learning to real world contexts. This makes learning come alive and sows the seeds for innovation from primary school onwards. Beyond the classroom, students can explore further afield through Applied Learning Programmes, such as in robotics, food sciences, media communications, the arts, music and many other areas. Through hands-on activities, sometimes employing modern technologies, students’ learning takes on real-world meaning and relevance. In these ways, students find joy in learning, and are more intrinsically motivated to learn, not just for exams.
13. I share Ms Denise Phua’s concern regarding tuition, and thank her for her suggestions. Excessive tuition, especially when the child is already doing well, can erode the joy of learning.
14. Children need to have more unstructured spaces to play, to grow their imagination, creativity and socio-emotional skills. If a child spends too much time on tuition, his holistic development can be impacted. Excessive tuition can also develop a crutch mentality in our students. This stands in the way of self-management and self-responsibility in learning.
15. I fully understand that parents want to give the best support to help their children do well in their studies. But we need to find a balance, at each age. As a parent, I too am learning when to step forward to assist my children when needed, but also when to step back, so they learn independence and self-reliance.
16. In schools, we are calibrating this balance too. We are developing an online portal for all students to support their self-paced learning and revision. Not quite an e-campus but we are getting there. For those students who require extra help, we provide levelling-up programmes in smaller groups, and remedial and consultation sessions outside of lesson time. We will also continue to partner self-help groups who have done good work in providing subsidised tutoring to those in need.
17. But not all students who go for tuition actually need it. Some are already doing well in school. What truly fuels the tuition industry is an unhealthy over-emphasis on academic results that we all need to move away from. Changes to the PSLE system as I announced last year are a step in this direction. From 2021 onwards, the PSLE T-score will be replaced with wider Achievement Levels, and pupils will be assessed independently of how their peers fare.
18. Making this paradigm shift towards a more holistic education for our children is not easy, and will not be easy. I agree with Mr Lim Biow Chuan that we should not set overly high standards for school examinations. We guide schools and provide training and resources to teachers, to help them pitch school-based assessments closer to the standards of national examinations.
19. I would also like to assure Dr Tan Wu Meng that we have taken active steps to simplify the language used to set mathematical problems in national examinations. Schools also take care to pitch the language used in their assessments appropriately, to avoid penalising students who may be weaker in English.
20. While schools will do their part, parents will also need to make judicious choices, taking into consideration the child’s total needs. I am glad to see a gradual mind-set change in our parents. More are starting to see the value of creating informal, unstructured learning spaces for their children. I look forward to deepening our partnership with parents to cultivate and sustain the joy of learning in our children.
21. Finding passion is good but we need to do more. We need to help our students develop an entrepreneurial dare so that they will apply what they learn, act on their passions, and pursue them.
22. Mr Dennis Tan spoke about promoting entrepreneurship in schools. Our students are exposed to Business and Entrepreneurship through CCAs and Applied Learning. But my vision for entrepreneurial dare is broader and goes beyond encouraging entrepreneurship. It is not simply about promoting businesses or start-ups.
23. Rather, entrepreneurial dare is an attitude, a mind-set of pushing boundaries, of wanting to innovate and finding a breakthrough. It applies across all domains, not just in business and enterprises, but also in scientific research, engineering, and the arts. It is not about the mechanics of entrepreneurship, but the broader foundation of encouraging our students to have entrepreneurial dare.
- Being “entrepreneurial” is about having a spirit of enterprise. An enterprising person is able to quickly analyse complex issues and identify problems and gaps, develop new ideas, seize opportunities and take action.
- To “dare”, resilience is key. Because it is often the fear of failure that holds many of us back. If we are confident of being able to bounce back, more of us will have the resilience to “try, fail, try again…” until we succeed.
- To “dare”, adaptability is also key. Adaptability enables us to quickly innovate to seize the opportunities available or respond to the challenges ahead.
24. Some employers I have spoken to tell me they want to see more entrepreneurial dare in our students. They say our students are smart, but some are afraid to embrace risks in trying new things, or new ways of doing things. Because it is easy to become hemmed in by our own successes, we must help our children venture out of their comfort zones and fail-safe modes. Having entrepreneurial dare is all the more important as we enter uncharted waters ahead.
25. To cultivate this entrepreneurial dare, we need to infuse it into our students’ education journey to create an environment, where trying is encouraged, and failing is accepted as a step towards success and as part of our overall learning.
26. Outdoor Education is one key way to nurture this entrepreneurial dare. Apart from being fun, outdoor adventure experiences build character and qualities such as resilience, tenacity, leadership, teamwork, grit, and adaptability, all of which help foster Entrepreneurial Dare.
27. This year, I am happy to see that Secondary 3 students from 28 schools will take part in the new five-day MOE-Outward Bound School programme. In fact I joined students from Whitley Secondary School and Tanjong Katong Girls’ School when they were at OBS. Most tell me OBS is fun but they also say that it is challenging. They shared that whether out at sea or in the forest, they are often pushed to their limit, both physically and mentally. In an unfamiliar environment, they learn to draw on one another’s strengths to overcome challenges. They have to either persevere and try, or remain stuck in an uncomfortable situation. Through these experiences, they tell me they learnt to rough it out, and emerge from the camp tougher, more confident and resilient.
28. I am glad to see the MOE-OBS programme developing well. Having nurtured a strong team of passionate and qualified outdoor adventure educators, we are on track to make this programme a common experience for all Secondary 3 students from 2020.
29. Parents who got a taster of outdoor activities at MOE’s Outdoor Adventure Learning Centres have also given us very positive feedback. They see how Outdoor Education can develop resilience, and a can-do spirit in their children, and are glad that we are investing in this area.
30. Mr Png Eng Huat asked how we will support and promote sports in schools. Across all levels, we have increased PE lessons to at least 2 hours per week. Students learn how to play a wide range of sports in PE and participate in inter-class games.
31. For those who are interested, they can also get involved in the vibrant sports scene that we have engendered in our schools. We have more than 60 sports CCAs being offered across schools. Each year, more than 55,000 student athletes participate in the numerous sporting events in the National School Games.
32. We are also committed to developing sporting strengths. MOE’s Junior Sports Academy selects about 400 primary school students per cohort, with high natural ability in sports, and grows their talent from a young age.
33. Applied learning is another key way to nurture entrepreneurial dare. We will continue to create more informal, less structured learning spaces, both within and outside of the classroom, for our children to explore and discover the world.
34. Last year, Teck Whye Secondary celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. When I visited, Teck Whyeans proudly showed me a golden orchid that they had developed it for the special occasion. It took them 5 years and 5 different graduating cohorts to breed the golden orchid, and in the process learn the science of plant genetics. It took leadership and teamwork across cohorts, with seniors passing the project on to their juniors when they graduated. It took many rounds of trying and failing. But when the students eventually succeeded, they were thrilled and immensely proud to present the golden orchid to the school.
35. This showed me what our students can achieve when they combine academic rigour in genetics, with the Joy of Learning, and a dose of Entrepreneurial Dare. This simple project of experimentation goes to show the important role that schools can play in nurturing these qualities. MOE is studying how to build on these good practices, to further infuse the Joy of Learning and Entrepreneurial Dare in our curriculum and teaching practices.
36. However, there is no silver bullet or any easy way to foster the Joy of Learning and, Entrepreneurial Dare, and reduce our over-emphasis on academic results. But as we move in this direction, I hope our parents and the wider community and this House will continue to support us in helping our young to discover and pursue their passions.
37. It is passion that will sustain our children throughout their education journey. Fuelled by passion, our young can better meet their aspirations and contribute to the future economy as holistic individuals and lifelong learners.
DISCOVERING TALENT, GROWING STRENGTHS
38. Members are interested to know how we will prepare our students for the growth opportunities that the CFE has painted in the region and worldwide. To do this, we are committed to developing strengths in every student. If they are good at something, we want to help them hone their strengths into deep knowledge and skills. By tapping on these strengths and the strong foundations laid in schools, they will be empowered to access the multiple post-secondary pathways available.
39. Our strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and bilingual education provides a good base for students to discover their talents and develop key skills. Our young will need deep skills and expertise to harness technology in the future economy.
40. I met some Singaporeans recently in the in the Silicon Valley during a recent study visit to the US. They told me that they had always been interested in technology. But interest alone was not enough. What enabled them to pursue their successful careers in Silicon Valley is the strong core of technical skills and knowledge that they had acquired back home in Singapore.
41. Our bilingual education also builds strong communication skills that our students can use to connect across cultures, while rooting them in their cultural identity. For those who build this into a strength, they will be well-positioned to seize opportunities in ASEAN, China, and India and across the world. Several Members have asked how we will strengthen our mother tongue languages and cultures, and whether we would consider introducing regional languages in our curriculum. Parl Sec Low and Parl Sec Faishal will address some of these issues later. They will highlight how we are making our Mother Tongue Languages come alive to ignite students’ interests.
42. Because every child is unique and has different aptitudes and learning pace, we need to give our young people different options and diverse paths. Let me share how we will do this better on this front.
43. Students have different strengths across their subjects. That is why we offer some flexibility for secondary school students in the Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) courses to take their stronger subject(s) at a higher academic level. Today, it is not uncommon for upper secondary students in Normal (Academic) course to take one or two subjects at Express level. Those in Normal (Technical) course likewise can take subjects at Normal (Academic) level.
44. In 2014, we extended this flexibility to the lower secondary students in 12 prototype schools. Students who have done well in specific subjects at the PSLE or in secondary school examinations have the option to take these subjects at a higher level earlier, from Secondary 1, and not only from Secondary 3. We call this flexibility Subject-Based Banding. Not only does this help them deepen their learning in areas of strengths, it also helps our students build confidence, and opens up new post-secondary possibilities for them.
45. We have since learnt from this prototype experience, and are ready to extend this to all secondary schools. By 2018, we will implement Subject-Based Banding for Secondary 1 students in all secondary schools that offer the Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) courses.
46. Dr Intan asked if we should do away with streaming. I know that there are concerns that streaming can inadvertently discourage some students. But, we also know that it has served our students well. The three courses – Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) – have catered to different learning needs and pace of our students, and have succeeded in keeping students engaged in schools. This allowed them to progress as far as possible in their studies, and as a result, our attrition rates today are very low. It is less than 1%, much lower than what we started out with.
47. Nonetheless, I recognise that we cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach. We have increased porosity across the various courses. For late bloomers, they can transfer to a more demanding course if they are able to cope with the academic requirements of the course. For students with uneven strengths across their subjects, they can stretch themselves in their areas of strength through subject-based banding. These are all ways to ensure that our students are not held back but instead are better supported in realising their potential.
48. I recently met some girls from CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent, who shared how they have benefitted from Subject-Based Banding. They told me that taking one or two subjects at a higher level has boosted their confidence in learning and also helped them realise their potential across subjects.
49. Catrice Gan, who is in the Normal (Academic) course, took English at Express level when she was in Secondary 1 and enjoyed herself very much in her English class. The experience made her a more confident learner, so much so that she improved in her Maths as well, and was later offered the option to study Maths at Express Level. She told me she never imagined this could happen because Maths was her weakest subject at PSLE! Now in Secondary 3, she intends to take both English and Maths at O-Level.
50. The girls admitted that adjusting to a faster pace was not always easy. Their teachers and parents provided a lot of support to help them adjust. Some of them told me that they gave it a good shot but eventually decided not to continue. Still, they tell me that it was a good learning experience for them, and they were glad to be given the opportunity to try.
51. Hearing the girls’ positive experiences, I am glad that by 2018, we will be able to expand Subject-Based Banding to all schools, to benefit more students.
Direct School Admission
52. Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Mr Edwin Tong asked about appeal transfers after the Secondary 1 Posting Exercise. Our transfer process must be fair and transparent. The Secondary 1 Posting Exercise is conducted based on PSLE performance. Hence, Principals will consider appeals only if the student has met the school’s cut-off point.
53. For those who do not meet the cut-off point, flexibility will be exercised if they have medical or special needs, or if there are exceptional circumstances. Over 400 of our students appealed successfully and obtained a school transfer this year, according to their school preferences.
54. Our secondary schools do not only admit students based on cut-off points. The Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme is set up to allow schools to recognise and admit students based on a more diverse range of talents and achievements, beyond what the PSLE recognises.
55. Many students take up the DSA because they want to further nurture their talents and strengths through specific programmes in schools.
- At St Theresa’s, I saw how hard the Theresian hockey team fought to win a friendly match. A few hockey players I saw told me they joined the school via DSA, because they fell in love with hockey at primary school, and wanted to further develop their talent, through the strong hockey team at St Theresa’s.
- Like the Theresians who chased their passion, Kirshann Venu Das joined Evergreen Secondary via DSA. He wanted to nurture his passion and talent in English through their Communication Programme. When Kirshann was in Secondary 2, he won the Silver medal at the National Schools Literature Festival Poetry Slam. Now he is a JC2 student, he continues his passion of studying Literature at A-Level and conducts public poetry recitals in school.
- These examples illustrate the intent of our DSA scheme and how students have benefitted by taking ownership of their education choices.
56. Mr Ang Wei Neng asked for a breakdown of the DSA admission numbers in 2016. I would like to clarify that schools received 16,000 applications last year, with some students applying to more than one school. Eventually, a total of 2,800 students were admitted to secondary school via DSA, half of whom were admitted to the Integrated Programme, or IP. This is unsurprising, given that IP schools have full discretion in admission, while the majority of secondary schools can only set aside 5%, 10% or 20% of their Secondary 1 intake for DSA places today, depending on the type of school.
57. Our schools have robust distinctive programmes. For example, the Applied Learning Programmes, and Learning for Life Programmes are designed in consultation with industry partners to offer more authentic learning experiences. I agree with Mr Ang that we can do more to help students take advantage of these programmes via DSA, in all schools.
58. Starting from 2018, we will expand the number of DSA places so that all secondary schools can admit up to 20% of their Secondary 1, non-Integrated Programme intake via DSA. With this expansion, students can better access schools with suitable programmes via DSA, to nurture their strengths, talents and interests.
59. As what Mr Edwin Tong has pointed out, DSA should not be seen as an entry ticket to popular schools. It is a mutual commitment between the school and student, and the child will have to complete the DSA application process before the release of the PSLE results.
60. We will also make changes to DSA processes. First, we will refine DSA selection. Today, all applicants who apply for a particular DSA category in a school go through the same selection that is open and merit-based. The selection matches a student’s strengths and interests to a school’s talent development programmes, and ensures that students are able to cope with the academic rigour of the school’s programmes.
61. We will start refining the DSA selection from this year, to better achieve the objectives of DSA. Schools will focus on identifying students with specific talents and move away from recognising strong general academic abilities. As Mr Edwin Tong and some parents have rightly pointed out, students with strong general academic abilities would already be able to qualify for the school with their PSLE results.
62. As part of this refinement, schools will discontinue the use of general academic ability tests in DSA selection by 2018. These tests are used by some schools as a standardised assessment of applicants’ general reasoning and problem-solving skills. While they allow for a comparison of students’ abilities, they also inadvertently put undue focus on general academic abilities, rather than identifying specific strengths.
63. Schools will continue to focus on identifying sporting talent, artistic talent, or academic talent in specific domains, for instance, languages, Maths or Science. Schools can conduct their selection via a range of assessment tools including interviews, trials, auditions and subject tests. They will also consider the applicant’s overall portfolio and achievements.
64. A second change we will make is to simplify the DSA application process. Today, students have to apply to individual schools, each with their own application process. From the 2019 DSA Exercise onwards, students will be able to submit their applications through a centralised online application portal, using a common application form. Schools will also put out clear information about the DSA categories and selection criteria on their websites. This will help students and parents make better informed choices.
65. I look forward to seeing more primary school students take up these increased opportunities to develop their strengths in a more holistic fashion.
ENSURING ACCESS TO OPPORTUNITIES
66. As we improve our education system, we will continue to ensure that it remains open and inclusive, such that every child will have access to a quality education. This inclusiveness and openness should not be taken for granted. In many countries, parents are not optimistic that their children will have a good education if they come from the lower socio-economic quartiles.
67. In Singapore, this is not the case. In the 2015 PISA results, about half of our Singaporean students in the bottom socio-economic quarter were found to be resilient, performing better than what their socio-economic status would otherwise predict. This is almost twice the OECD average.
68. We must continue to ensure open access to opportunities for all students, regardless of their backgrounds. Last year, we announced that we will include children with moderate to severe Special Educational Needs in the Compulsory Education (CE) Act. MOS Janil Puthucheary will share more on special education later.
69. In 2015, we enhanced the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) to include a transport subsidy, in the form of a $120 public transport credit or a 50% subsidy for their school bus fee. In 2016, we also doubled the overall meal subsidy provision, from $270 to $520 per year for every primary school student on FAS, to support more meals and at a higher value.
70. Mr Png Eng Huat and Mr Leon Perera asked about MOE’s resourcing of schools. Mr Png said that this is the second year he is asking this question. Well, our schools are well-resourced both in terms of funding and manpower. Because schools have different student profiles, they run different programmes, catering to different learning needs. In deciding how much to resource, our focus is on the student.
71. Equitable funding is not about giving every school the same resources, but taking a needs-based approach, varying our resources to bring out the best in every child. Take for instance, the 4 Specialised Schools, in particular, Crest and Spectra, which we have set up for students in the Normal (Technical) course. They received per capita funding of about $27,000 in FY2016, significantly higher than other schools. This funding goes towards supporting a skills-based curriculum and customised learning environments that can better position the students for subsequent studies.
72. It is also important for me to clarify that the recent mergers were due to falling cohort sizes, and not what the Members have misunderstood it to be. The mergers were necessary to sustain a critical mass to offer students a good range of educational programmes and quality learning experiences.
73. We take a needs-based approach in deploying teachers too. The size of our teaching force has increased by 20% over the last decade, lowering our Pupil-Teacher-Ratios (PTRs) to 16 and 12 at the Primary and Secondary school levels respectively. This is comparable to OECD standards. Rather than reducing class sizes across the board, schools deploy their additional teachers flexibly to keep class sizes smaller for students who need the extra support. For instance, in learning support classes for Primary 1 and 2 students who require extra help in English or Maths, there are typically only 8 to 10 students per class.
74. OECD research has shown that teacher quality, in fact, is more critical than class size for student outcomes. Hence, we should not focus solely on class sizes, but on the overall situation of how we deploy our teachers optimally for the best outcomes for our kids.
75. I agree with Dr Intan and Mr Lim Wee Kiak that we want to ensure some level of access for students who are interested in secondary schools with affiliation, but did not attend the affiliated primary school.
76. Today, 27 secondary schools offer their affiliated primary school students priority in the Secondary 1 posting. Affiliates qualify for this priority only if they indicate the affiliated secondary school as their first choice.
77. Affiliation has its educational merits. It helps foster a strong school spirit and preserve schools’ traditions and ethos. Notwithstanding these merits, we have to ensure that our schools are open to all students, regardless of their backgrounds or connections.
78. Since the 2014 Primary 1 Registration Exercise, we have already set aside at least 40 places in every primary school for children without prior connection to the school. This gives every Singaporean child a better chance to enter the primary school of his choice.
79. Starting from the 2019 Secondary 1 Posting Exercise, 20% of places for each course in every affiliated secondary school will be reserved for students who do not benefit from affiliation priority.
80. Most affiliated secondary schools today already admit more than 20% of non-affiliates. However, since this proportion varies up and down from year to year, we are setting aside 20% of places every year, in every affiliated secondary school, to strike a balance between recognising affiliation and ensuring open access for all students.
Values and Character – Our Core Foundation
81. Finally, I would like to assure Dr Intan that values and character education remain at the core of our education. MOE believes in nurturing socially responsible, values-centred Singaporeans who care for their family, our community and our Singapore.
82. Our Character and Citizenship Education effort is integrated in the various experiences of school life. Students are also given opportunities to put their social and emotional competencies into action through their involvement in activities such as CCAs and Values in Action programme. Our students can better internalise our core values through their experiential learning and deep reflection.
83. Madam Speaker, allow me to say a few words in Mandarin please.
90. Let me now turn to other issues that Members have raised. Dr Tan Wu Meng and Ms Cheng Li Hui asked about Singapore International Schools for overseas Singaporean students. The Singapore International School Hong Kong (SISHK) is the only overseas school run by MOE to cater to Singaporean students who are based abroad. We currently do not have any plans to set up a similar school elsewhere.
91. Nevertheless, MOE is committed to support children of parents who have ventured abroad. MOE helps them to stay in touch with the Singapore school system while they are away, and also to ease their integration back into the local school system at any time that they return. For example, schools allow students to take a Leave of Absence, and provide them with teaching and learning materials while they are overseas. As more Singaporeans venture overseas, we will see how we can do this better.
92. In closing, let me share the story of a group of ITE College West students whom I met recently. They won the top prize in the national Green Wave Environmental Care competition, beating several credible teams in the JC-ITE category. What impressed was not just because they had won. What really impressed me was how they had discovered their passion and applied their learning in environmental science.
93. Determined to re-populate horseshoe crabs in the wild, the team started a school project to improve the hatch rate of the eggs. Through many months of hard work, they developed expertise in this field, and discovered new knowledge in the propagation of horseshoe crabs. It was fascinating to hear from them how they harvested the eggs, and built their own incubator, complete with an enhanced oxygen hatching tray, to improve the hatch rates.
94. Along the way, as they do this project, they also learnt that the blue blood of horseshoe crabs has special medicinal value. They are now learning how to harvest the blue blood extract because it is valued at over US$15,000 per litre! I am encouraging them to seize this opportunity and make the most out of it! Maybe with a little entrepreneurial spirit and some support, they can do a start-up.
95. Most importantly, I see the joy in their eyes and their entrepreneurial dare to push boundaries in their learning. Their success is not a coincidence. They discovered and pursued their passion, and worked hard to develop these project work into strengths. They were not deterred by the many failures and challenges, and found the tenacity to see through their project.
96.I share their story because their journey is what exactly what we want all our students to experience: learning with joy, having an entrepreneurial dare and having the strength of character to overcome challenges and setbacks.
97. Therefore, let us work together, this House and beyond, to nurture our students so they will become holistic individuals and lifelong learners with deep skills and expertise, ready for the future.