October 04, 2016
Speech by Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Mr Ng Chee Meng at the Official Opening Ceremony of Spectra Secondary School
1. A very good evening to all of you. I am very happy to be here today for this important milestone.
2. I identify with the mission of Spectra Secondary: to deliver a quality learning experience customised to the learning profile of its students, with the support of an entire community of teachers, parents and partners.
3. I am excited to join you in celebrating the beginning of this wonderful journey with Spectra, with the first three cohorts of students, and with all the teachers and staff. You are the pioneers of the Spectra story.
4. As pioneers, you are laying the foundations for your school: you will determine how the vision to help every student shine will unfold; and how the Spectran Spirit will inculcate good values, team work and resilience. You are also instrumental in making Spectra a close-knit community, of partners, parents and teachers, passionate and committed to nurture students to fulfil their potential.
JOY OF LEARNING
5. Recently, at the MOE Work Plan Seminar, I spoke about the importance of helping our students experience the joy of learning, to nurture an intrinsic motivation towards learning in every student. Scoring well in school exams is important, but it should not be the end-goal of learning. Rather, learning is a lifelong journey of exploration and discovery, where one experiences deep personal fulfilment from acquiring new knowledge and skills.
6. Spectra is a wonderful example of how a school has successfully built its entire educational philosophy, from its curriculum and programmes, to its culture and community, upon the single Anchor Thought of instilling the joy of learning in its students.
7. Spectra was started as our second Specialised School for Normal (Technical) students (SSNT). We call it a specialised school because it provides a unique, practice-oriented curriculum that is customised to the aptitude and learning profile of its students.
8. By supporting students to learn at a pace suitable for them, Spectra helps students to build self-confidence and feel more motivated to come to school. Students can draw connections between learning in class to real world contexts, and they can appreciate learning better when it is made authentic and relevant. These have made a big difference in the students’ learning journey, interest and passion.
SUPPORTING STUDENTS TO DISCOVER AND PURSUE INTERESTS
9. Our two SSNTs, Spectra and Crest Secondary offer a unique curriculum where students specialise in one of four ITE Skills Certificate (ISC) courses1 at Secondary 3 alongside some GCE ‘N’ level subjects. All final year students receive a valuable opportunity to immerse in a workplace and put their learning in school to practice in an 8-week long Industry Experiential Programme (IEP).
10. Students from Spectra and Crest have found that, even as they benefitted from the schools’ broad-based programmes, they have really thrived under this practice-oriented and skills-based approach. In fact, I am encouraged by the schools’ sharing that many students have, through this approach, built stronger literacy and numeracy skills, and received multiple opportunities to explore their interests through the ISCs.
11. The ISCs’ practice-based approach is specially customised to prepare students for progression to post-secondary skills training at ITE and for employment.
Students would hone their skills and become more familiar with real life work environments through participating in the IEP. For example, the ISC Retail Services course equips students with hands-on practice in areas such as customer service, and authentic application during their IEP in retail stores like Marks & Spencer and Mango. This places them in good stead to apply to Nitec courses relevant to their ISC.
12. During the Joint Intake Exercise (JIE), the SSNTs’ students’ performance in the ISC would be considered on par with other students’ performance in the GCE ‘N’ levels.
13. Recognising the distinct value of taking the ISC curriculum, I would like to announce that, besides the JIE, Spectra and Crest students who demonstrate strong aptitude in their ISCs can now apply for early admission into ITE through the Special College Admissions Scheme, under the course-related skills track. Each of the four ISCs will be mapped to relevant Nitec courses. Students who apply for early admission into these mapped courses will be considered favourably based on their strong aptitude in the ISCs.
14. This is very much in line with our shift towards aptitude-based admissions in our Institutes of Higher Learning. So, a student who takes the ISC would have an advantage when applying for a mapped Nitec course compared to his peers who take a more academic curriculum in other schools. He would have had many more concrete opportunities to demonstrate passion and aptitude through his ISC experience in Spectra and Crest.
15. Given the positive feedback we have received from teachers and industry partners, we anticipate hearing good stories of students being placed into mapped courses of their interest in ITE through their aptitudes in the ISC.
16. Securing a place early in a course of their interest would bring students in Spectra and Crest one step closer towards achieving their desired careers and aspirations.
17. And this, to me, enables a continuation of the joy of learning beyond school, into life and work.
CARING TEACHERS AND SUPPORTIVE PARENTS
18. I have heard heartening stories of how parents have witnessed visible changes in their children, becoming more motivated and happier since they came to Spectra.
19. Apart from the customised curriculum and educational programmes, one of the reasons for this change is the caring and nurturing environment in Spectra. A supportive learning environment is important to create time and space for students to explore and discover their strengths and interests. Then, they will build confidence and are encouraged to pursue and grow them into passions. This is where dedicated teachers play a very important role. In many cases, the key motivation for students to come to school and learn is simply because they have been touched by the unwavering support from their teachers. Spectra’s teachers are carefully selected for their passion and experience in meeting the needs of the school’s student profile. Over and above their teaching duties, they have made additional effort to understand and build relationships with their students – getting to know their family backgrounds, strengths, likes and dislikes, their interests and hopes in life. Sometimes, these relationships and trust take time to build. It is not always easy, but I know the Spectra teachers have continued knocking on the doors of their students’ hearts until they are let in.
20. Ms Sally Eng can testify to this. Her effort reaching out to her students is unceasing and her students know they can always share their concerns with her. When Mohammed Harith, a shy student in her class confided in her about his interest and reservations about joining the Dance Club, she encouraged him to step out of his comfort zone and pursue his interests. Harith is now an active member of the Dance Club and all of us will get to watch him perform later.
21. Teachers like Sally give their students a renewed sense of hope when they go the extra mile, to not only teach, but also be a role model and a source of emotional support for their students.
22. I am very proud of Sally and her fellow teachers here in Spectra. They are shining examples of the teaching fraternity.
23. Home support is also critical for a caring and nurturing learning environment, in school and at home. These come hand-in-hand to support our students’ learning. Parents are the teachers’ most valuable partners.
24. Here at Spectra, I know there is great emphasis on supporting strong parent-child relationships and actively involving parents in the school community. For many, the involvement of parents is another transformative factor that inspires students to learn, because they want to make their parents proud.
25. This year alone, the school has collaborated with partners such as Centre for Fathering to organise three separate activities for Spectra students and their parents to jointly participate in – Family Day, Father-Child Bonding Day and Mother-Child Bonding Day.
26. I applaud Spectra’s commitment towards investing time and resources in planning these activities. The fruit is not only the fun for the day, but strengthened bonds that would help the students in many ways.
TRANSFORMATION OF STUDENTS
27. Of course, the clearest testimony of the joy of learning, and the powerful transformation that it brings, is reflected through the students themselves.
28. If I may invite every student here to take a moment to think back on your first day here. You might have felt excited, or maybe a bit anxious. Some of you might have been worried about what lay ahead for you in secondary school. Now, think about where you are today. Look around you and see how far you and your friends have progressed in the past few years.
29. For some of you, I believe the transformation is remarkable. Sri Ram from class 3/4 is one such example. He recalls being playful and failing Mathematics and Mother Tongue back in primary school, which affected his self-esteem. However, through the hands-on lessons and care of his teachers in Spectra, Sri Ram has discovered his love for cooking and today, is a promising young chef in the Hospitality Services course. He has received multiple opportunities to represent Spectra at competitions including the Young Entrepreneurs Competition mentioned earlier by Mr Ari and has transformed into a confident and enthusiastic learner. I had the privilege of tasting the sushi prepared by Sri Ram and his team at the Bistro earlier and it was such a delicious treat!
30. I am sure many of you, like Sri Ram, have found greater purpose in attending school because of Spectra’s whole-school approach towards hands-on learning, and through community projects, CCAs or work attachments. Here in Spectra, many of you have learnt not to have a fear of failing, because everyone is given many opportunities to try again or try differently if things don’t work out the first time. Each personal success, be it big or small, is a recognition of the milestones you have achieved here. Looking back on all your experiences would instil a sense of confidence in yourself and encourage you to reach for your aspirations. It is my hope that you will carry this positive attitude towards learning throughout your life, and let that be a hallmark of every student who passes through the doors of Spectra.
31. I know that your parents and teachers are extremely proud of every single one of you. I can see it in their eyes and the way they talk about you --- they have every right to be.
32. Well, today marks the first chapter of the Spectra story. I’m sure there will be many more to come, and many more young people to nurture and enable. The chapters may not be filled with pages of trophies and titles. But like what Mr Ari said, that is not what the Spectra story is about. Rather, it is about helping students to discover the joy of learning, giving them opportunities to shine in all their different ways, and then come together in a spectrum of colours. So I am sure that the Spectra story will be an inspiring and heartfelt one, filled with pages of resilience, encouragement and hope. And most importantly, it will be written by all of you – school leaders, teachers, students, parents and partners. I am happy and humbled to be part of it today.
33. So to everyone who has had a hand in writing this chapter, I congratulate all of you once again on the official opening of Spectra Secondary School!
34. Thank you.