Speeches/Interviews

March 04, 2020

MOE FY2020 Committee of Supply Debate Response by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim

LEARN FOR LIFE – READY FOR THE FUTURE

INTRODUCTION

1. Mr Chairman, as I hear about how we are supporting our people to seize the opportunities of the future, I am reminded of the importance of nurturing well-rounded individuals guided by a strong set of values.

2. Indeed, MOE remains committed to this cause. That said, I am also reminded how important it is for all of us – parents, teachers, and the community – to work together to bring out the best in our children.

3. Mr Chairman, allow me to first speak in Malay.

EDUCATION IS A COLLECTIVE EFFORT

4. Sejak beberapa tahun ini, ramai ibu bapa yang saya temui berkongsi kebahagiaan serta pelbagai cabaran mereka sebagai ibu bapa – hingga ada yang tidak dapat tidur malam. Sebagai ayah kepada dua orang anak, saya faham akan sentimen mereka.

[Over the last few years, many parents have shared with me that being a parent has brought them tremendous joy – but equally, many sleepless nights. As a father of two children, I can relate to this sentiment.]

5. Sebagai ibu bapa, kita mahukan dan berusaha untuk memberikan yang terbaik untuk anak-anak kita. Pada masa yang sama, kita juga bertanggungjawab untuk membentuk mereka menjadi insan yang bertanggungjawab yang memiliki hala tuju berteraskan nilai-nilai moral, menghargai warisan, dan seperti yang dikongsi oleh Menteri Ong tadi – asas yang kukuh untuk melayari dunia di hadapan mereka.

[As parents, we want what is best for our children and seek to bring out the best in them. At the same time, we are also responsible for moulding them into responsible individuals with a strong moral compass, a sense of heritage, and as Minister Ong has shared – a strong foundation of values, tools and skills to navigate the world ahead of them.]

6. Inilah yang MOE sama komited untuk lakukan sedang kami melakukan perubahan pada sistem pendidikan seperti yang telah diperjelaskan oleh rakan-rakan seperjuangan saya. Cik Cheng Li Hui dan Encik Siah Kian Peng bertanyakan bagaimana usaha sama kami dengan ibu bapa, masyarakat dan industri dapat membentuk nilai, sikap dan kemahiran yang betul dalam diri pelajar-pelajar kita.

[This is also something that MOE is committed to – even as we embark on the shifts in our education system that my colleagues have spoken about. Ms Cheng Li Hui and Mr Siah Kian Peng asked about our partnerships with parents, community and industry, and how these would help to nurture the right values, dispositions, and skills in our students.]

7. Pertama, sekolah-sekolah kita aktif mendekati ibu bapa dan bekerja rapat dengan mereka untuk menyokong anak-anak kita meneruskan kekuatan dan minat mereka dan membentuk nilai dan sikap yang baik. Garis Pandu Kerjasama Sekolah Bersama Keluarga yang dikeluarkan tahun lepas disambut baik oleh ibu bapa dan sekolah-sekolah, dan kami melihat tanda-tanda yang memberangsangkan. Contohnya, tumpuan perbualan antara guru-guru dan ibu bapa kini berpindah daripada penekanan yang berlebih-lebihan pada pencapaian akademik ke kecenderungan pembelajaran pelajar, kesejahteraan fizikal dan mental mereka dan kelakuan mereka dalam bilik darjah.

[First, our schools actively reach out to parents, and work closely with them to support our children in pursuing their strengths and interests, and to impart good values and attitudes. Our guidelines for School-Home Partnerships – released last year – were well received by parents and schools. Since then, we have observed some encouraging signs. For example, the focus of conversations between teachers and parents has shifted from an overemphasis on academic achievement, to students' learning dispositions, physical and mental well-being, and classroom behaviour.]

8. Saya sangat teruja apabila Puan Titek Rohani, yang mempunyai anak bongsu yang kini berada di Sekolah Menengah berkongsi bagaimana beliau berusaha untuk belajar daripada guru-guru, kekuatan dan minat anaknya, hubungan anaknya dengan pelajar-pelajar lain dan sama ada anaknya menyumbang pada pembelajaran rakan-rakan sedarjah. Beliau juga bekerja rapat dengan pihak sekolah untuk membimbing anaknya meneroka laluan pendidikan berbeza.

[I was very encouraged when Madam Titek Rohani, whose youngest child is now in Secondary School, shared how she makes it a point to learn about her child's strengths and interests, relationships with fellow students, and contributions to his peers' learning from his teachers. She also works closely with the school to guide her child as he explores different education pathways.]

ROLE MODELS FOR OUR STUDENTS

9. Second, schools and parents work closely to role model good values and attitudes for our students. Values are both caught and taught, and likewise both practised and preached. I am very heartened to hear how parents and teachers are collectively encouraging and galvanising students amidst the COVID-19 virus situation. They are indeed role models for our students.

10. Our teachers have seized the opportunity to educate our students about the virus and their part to play. They do this through teaching scientific knowledge; inculcating good hygiene practices; as well as facilitating discussions on empathy, resilience, and a sense of community.

11. Parents too, have volunteered their time and effort to support the school community. For example, Rulang Primary School had sent out a circular to parents to inform them of the extra cleaning measures undertaken to ensure that the premises remained clean. In response, members of the Parent Support Group volunteered to help with cleaning efforts, which reduced the load of frontline support staff. In addition, the parents put together care packages to encourage the staff, cleaners and security officers for their hard work in ensuring that the school premises remained clean and safe.

12. From both our teachers and parents, our students are learning how they too can be part of the solution: by demonstrating kindness and being socially responsible. Together, they demonstrate the resilient, caring spirit of partnership that binds the nation together in trying times.

BROADENING STUDENTS' HORIZONS WITH COMMUNITIES & INDUSTRIES

13. Lastly, community and industry partners have a big role to play in developing our students holistically. Our schools have been actively engaging them to provide a richer learning experience for our students and broaden their horizons. Mr Terence Ho asked what our plans were for developing local arts institutions and suggested introducing local composers and compositions as part of our music curriculum.

14. This is something that we have done. One of MOE's key learning objectives of the Music syllabi is for students to appreciate music across local and global cultures. During music lessons, our students are introduced to traditional and contemporary music and instruments in Singapore through a selection of songs that reflects Singapore's diverse and rich culture.

15. Some schools have gone further and engaged local artistes to contribute to their programmes. For instance, Boon Lay Secondary School works closely with industry practitioners – such as Ms Melissa Quek, who is the Head of the School of Dance and Theatre at the LaSalle College of the Arts – to plan and deliver dance lessons/workshops under the school's Learning for Life Programme. This partnership has inspired students to appreciate the arts more deeply, and exposed them to different career possibilities.

16. MOE and MCCY will continue to closely study plans to develop our local arts institutions, including Mr Ho's suggestion of an arts university, taking into account the evolving arts education landscape and developments in the industry.

REAFFIRMING OUR COMMITMENT TO OUR STUDENTS

17. Mr Chairman, I would also like to take this chance to reaffirm the government's commitment to supporting our students. Ms Anthea Ong asked if we would extend subsidies for Primary school students with foreign passports.

18. All students in our primary schools benefit from education subsidies, with some differentiation in the amount of subsidy to reflect the benefits of citizenship. Likewise, Singaporean students in MOE-funded schools who need financial support are eligible for financial assistance schemes. Nonetheless, non-citizen students with at least one Singaporean or Permanent Resident parent can approach our schools for assistance. We will assess their situations and exercise flexibility on a case-by-case basis.

19. Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap asked if we would extend the Financial Assistance Scheme and Edusave Award to full-time Madrasah students. He drew a parallel with the provision of Edusave Contributions (EC) to Madrasah students. This comparison is inaccurate. All Singapore citizens age 7 to 16, regardless of school, receive an annual EC based on their age. This ensures every Singapore citizen child received support for secular enrichment activities.

20. The Edusave Awards, in contrast, is part of the programme in our national schools. They recognise the character, leadership, conduct, learning dispositions, and academic achievements of students enrolled in national schools. Similarly, the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme caters to students in MOE-funded schools. Students in private schools are hence not eligible for the Financial Assistance Scheme or Edusave Awards.

21. That said, the Government recognises the role that the madrasahs play for the community. Hence, students in madrasahs receive support through the Edusave Contributions. They are also eligible for the Madrasah Student Awards administered by MUIS, which recognise madrasah students' educational excellence.

22. In addition, MUIS provides assistance for madrasah students from low-income families through the Progress Fund Madrasah Assistance Scheme or PROMAS, in short. Furthermore, PROMAS recipients who perform well in both their religious and secular subjects and exhibit exemplary character are also eligible for the PROMAS Performance Award.

CONCLUSION

23. Mr Chairman, in closing, I would like to reiterate that it is only through our collective efforts – with parents, teachers, and the community – that we bring out the best in our children and nurture well-rounded individuals guided by a strong set of values.

24. While we may play different roles, we can all work together, as MOE's mission statement proclaims, 'to mould the future of our nation'.