March 04, 2020
MOE FY2020 Committee of Supply Debate Response by Senior Parliamentary Secretary Low Yen Ling
LEARN FOR LIFE – READY FOR THE FUTURE
1. Mr Chairman Sir, a teacher once told me: "Our job is not to prepare students for something. Our job is to help students prepare themselves for anything." This captures the essence of what MOE seeks to do as we enable Singaporeans to "Learn for Life". Let me give some updates on our continual efforts to empower Singaporeans, young and old, with the skills and dispositions to take on the future with confidence.
Building a Vibrant Ecosystem for the Learning of Mother Tongue Languages
2. To put Singaporeans in good stead for the future, proficiency in our Mother Tongue Languages (MTL) is key, as the age of Asia opens doors to greater opportunities.
3. Mr Chairman Sir, allow me to say a few words in Mandarin.
[Chairman, the learning of our Mother Tongue Languages is only natural given our cultural context, and will also help our students grasp the opportunities of a rising Asia. MOE has collaborated with the three Mother Tongue Language Learning Promotion Committees since their formation some fifteen years ago. Since then, we have worked closely with the community to encourage the learning of the MTLs beyond schools.]
[Over the last few years, there has been a stronger nexus between the work of the Committees and the formal MTL curriculum and a mutually reinforcing relationship between schools and the community. It has and will become easier for our educators to draw on resources of the community to support joyful and authentic MTL learning in schools.]
[For instance, members may be familiar with the annual National Schools Xinyao Festival. Recently, we introduced a new "Creative" songwriting category, where students submit original compositions based on the secondary MTL curriculum. This is quite challenging. You cannot just utilise a song created by others. Last year, I was part of the judging panel and was very impressed with the works that I saw. Two sisters composed, performed and produced a music video for a song titled 华佗, inspired by the tale of the renowned physician in their Chinese textbook. Their catchy tune and accessible lyrics allowed the story to shine through to the youths and enable a better understanding of Chinese culture, traditions and values. I encourage members to view this music video.]
[Why do I quote this example? A lot of wonderful things came out of this competition. Like the sisters, many of our students' work have been reproduced as useful lesson materials for our teachers. We believe that the collective energy and support of schools, families, the media, the entertainment circle and the larger community, will sustain a vibrant ecosystem to ignite students' interest and love for their Mother Tongue Languages.]
8. Let me also share examples of the work of our Malay and Tamil Language Learning Promotion Committees in making MTL learning relatable and enjoyable. Since 2018, the Perkasa Warisan Camp has brought together community partners to provide immersive experiences specifically tied to the language and cultural components of the Malay language curriculum, such as activities on the art of Malay gastronomy. Tech-savvy youths from National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University have made learning Tamil fun for Upper Primary students through a programme called "Artificial Intelligence and Tamil Language". This programme allows our students to learn the language in the context of coding applications and software, and apply it in novel and technological settings.
9. I am confident that the Committees will continue to bring together the passion, creativity and energy of our schools, parents, media and the community to sustain a vibrant ecosystem for our students to like, learn and use their MTL as living languages.
Broad-Based and Holistic Education
10. Mr Chairman Sir, apart from reinforcing our bilingual foundations, MOE is also committed to developing the whole child through a broad-based and holistic curriculum.
11. This includes, as Ms Cheng Li Hui suggested, engaging our youths in current issues like climate change, to foster in them traits of active citizenship and a shared concern for Singapore and the world. We currently integrate the topic of climate change across various subjects at different levels of the national curriculum. Secondary school students, for example, will learn in Geography lessons, the effects of climate change on our food supply chain and forests. In Science, they will investigate how human activities disrupt the carbon cycle, contribute to climate change and threaten our environment. As part of our curriculum development process, we also consult the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources and other relevant authorities to provide our students with the most up-to-date and accurate information on climate change. More importantly, we hone our students' ability in discerning the news and also engage them in inquiry-based learning and discussion, so that our students are guided to examine different sources of information critically.
12. Beyond the classroom, many schools have programmes that partner the community to promote environmental causes and give students the chance to translate their knowledge into action. For instance, students are trained to become "Junior Environmental Ambassadors" in the Green Schools programme by the South West Community Development Council (South West CDC) and the National Environmental Agency. As part of their training, they go through modules on the environment like energy efficiency and climate change, as well as the 4Rs to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and most recently, to Refuse. This further instils in our students green practices and mind-sets like waste minimisation. Students are our best ambassadors, because many go back and share what they have learned with their families. We are counting on them to help spread the word on these green practices. Last year, close to 300 enthusiastic student ambassadors across 49 schools completed their training and went on to champion green initiatives in their schools and the South West district. The other CDCs are also implementing similar green initiatives in their respective districts.
13. Also central to holistic education is the students' participation in Co-curricular Activities (CCAs), which allow them to discover their interest and talents, forge friendships with peers of diverse backgrounds, as well as develop character and resilience. We are glad that Ms Cheng Li Hui supports our initiative to pilot the removal of CCA selection trials to help our students develop their passions regardless of their prior experiences and backgrounds.
14. As part of our ongoing efforts to redefine CCA experiences, MOE is also exploring how to better promote social mixing and inclusivity through CCAs, as advocated by Ms Cheng. Currently, we are piloting combined teams where two schools run a CCA programme together, and where appropriate, they will send a combined team to participate in the National School Games or Singapore Youth Festival Arts Presentation. As students work together towards a common purpose, there will be plenty of opportunities for them to learn to appreciate their differences and pick up skills like relationship management. We are starting this with five pairs of schools. In time to come, we believe our CCA experiences will better support our students' holistic growth.
15. Mr Chairman Sir, to conclude, I recap the educator's quote that I started with: "Our job is not to prepare students for something. Our job is to help students prepare themselves for anything". Indeed, we should help students prepare themselves for anything that could come their way. In so doing, we will raise a generation of Singaporeans with a sense of confidence over their lives and their future, no matter what uncertainties a changing world may hold. To this end, MOE will continue to work with stakeholders to nurture our youths to become active citizens with a love to Learn for Life, and willing to act for a better Singapore that we collectively own. Thank you.