It is my pleasure to join you this evening at the Leaders in Education Programme (LEP) graduation dinner. My heartiest congratulations to the 35 graduands, including the five school leaders from Brunei Darussalam. You have reached this milestone after a challenging six months’ programme. Today marks the start of a new phase of your school leadership journey.Building a Culture of Learning and Respect
At our recent Work Plan Seminar, I focused on how we can grow the Singapore Teacher, who has four qualities - belief in your students, belief in yourself, belief in each other and belief that you are part of something larger. The Singapore Teacher lifts up his students and helps them to fulfil their potential, continues to grow in his craft throughout his life, supports his fellow educators in their journey of growth, and does this all to build something bigger than himself.
What do I mean by “belief that you are part of something larger”? Some educators shared with me after WPS that they do not frequently think of their work in terms of building something bigger than themselves. You are focused on bringing out the best in each individual child: encouraging them to love learning, instilling in them the right values and moral compass, and building strong foundations so that they can do well at the next stage of learning. Many of you go beyond the call of duty to look after the welfare of your students, and it shows in the way that students poured out their thanks for you in the closing video of my WPS speech!
This is precisely what I mean by building something larger. While you may not think about it in these terms, instinctively, all of you know that the future of our nation depends on the thousands of little interactions we have with our students every day. The students passing through your hands today will learn the values that will determine what our society will look like in a few decades. They will discover their passions and pick up the skills they need to serve the community they live in, and make Singapore a better place for their fellow citizens. As teachers, you pour your hard and heart work into these children because you want the best for them, and want the best for your country. Lesson by lesson, life by life, generation by generation, all of you in this room have given much to build something larger than ourselves.
I also spoke about how we can grow and support the Singapore Teacher. The Government, in accepting the ASPIRE Committee’s recommendations, has thrown its weight behind three shifts we would like to see in society:
- First, a stronger emphasis on skills and applied learning, so that our students can use knowledge in the real-world context to solve problems and to create innovations.
- Second, a desire for continual and lifelong learning, instead of just being frontloaded in the first 20 odd years of our lives.
- Third, a respect for every person and every job, stemming from a belief that people may differ in their interests, temperament, aptitudes and learning styles, but are valued in society.
The recommendations of the ASPIRE Committee and the new CET 2020 Masterplan, which was recently unveiled by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), signal the importance of looking beyond academic qualifications, to build and develop skills among Singaporeans in the next chapter of Singapore’s development as a nation. The SkillsFuture Council, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, will build on the work of these two initiatives and lead the way for Singaporeans to build a future based on skills and mastery in every job.The Critical Role of Educators in Building this Culture
As educators, we play an important role in effecting this shift.Stronger Emphasis on Skills and Applied Learning
First, a stronger emphasis on skills and applied learning. Many of us already help students apply their learning in real life situations, or at least help them see the applications of their learning - this after all often makes students much more interested in the subject matter. It also equips them to learn and innovate on the job, which will be a critical success factor for them. We will continue with this good work and through the Applied Learning Programme (ALP) in every secondary school, will do it in a more concerted way. I encourage you to implement it in your schools in the spirit of helping students deeply understand why they are learning what they are learning, and how they can go beyond to innovate, once they have grasped the concept.Desire for Continual and Lifelong Learning
Second, a desire for continual and lifelong learning. As teachers, you are the foremost models of lifelong learning to your students. The classroom and school is your classroom too. It is there where you learn what works, and what does not; where you pick up new skills, often by learning from each other, or by attending courses that are relevant to your job. The humility you demonstrate in your quest to keep improving, your strengthened teaching skills, and the mutual support that teachers give to each other in learning - all these will show your students that learning does not cease after the first 20 years of your life.
Teachers’ learning can be in different forms: on the job, or through courses; or learning in practice and through practice on the job; through mentoring, or simply, self-learning or personal reflection. There are many existing efforts in support of this, such as structured mentoring at the individual level, professional learning communities at the school level; and networked learning communities and subject chapters at the national and cluster level. Over the next five years, we will focus on high impact learning and developmental activities such as providing more opportunities for specialisation, deepening our support for mentoring, and growing the subject chapters and networked learning communities.
As School Leaders, you play an extremely important role in encouraging this culture of learning in your school. When asked what are the top few things that have helped in their professional development at the Work Plan Seminar discussions in the afternoon, the participants - teachers, Key Personnel (KPs), Senior Teachers (STs) etc. - unanimously said that one of the most important things to them is a supportive school culture; one where their leaders encourage them to take up professional development opportunities, sit with them to list down their areas of development, and encourage sharing and learning among school staff. I urge you to lead well in this respect, building a culture of teachers growing teachers in your school, where each person takes ownership for his or her own learning.Respect for Every Person and Every Job
Finally, respect for every person and every job. In society today, there unfortunately exists an unhealthy lack of regard for certain jobs. This shows up in the way some people shun particular jobs, because they perceive it to reflect poorly on their status; or in the way others treat the people who hold these jobs.
Senior Minister of State Ms Indranee Rajah shared a good example of this existing mentality that society holds in her opening speech for the Parliamentary Debate on ASPIRE. It was recounted by one of the ASPIRE committee members, Olivia Lum. There was a technician who was very good at his work. With his expertise and years of experience, he was being paid more than some of the graduates. However, he wanted to switch to a white-collar job even though it paid less. You might wonder why. His wife actually did not like him coming back in dirty overalls, smelling of the factory and the plant - she wanted him to have a white-collar job, even if it paid less.
We need to shift away from the mentality that some jobs and people are more valuable and respectable than others. We need to help our children understand that everyone is valued, and will use their gifts, talents, and strengths to serve the community in a unique way. In this regard, the Learning for Life programme, or the LLP in our schools, is relevant, as it not only provides the platform for students to continue their learning beyond the academic areas, it also helps them develop their character and values and cultivate positive attitudes, and shape them to better appreciate each and every individual.
We must also reflect on the Educational and Career Guidance that our teachers are giving our children - are we, by default, asking them to strive for certain tried and tested routes that may not be so suitable for them? Or are we really helping them to discover the path that is best suited for them? We should work towards encouraging them to pursue their interests, regardless of the qualifications, and help them to turn their passion into their careers. As School Leaders, let’s help our teachers reflect on this, so that we can build respect for every job and every person in society, and help our young ones to understand that there is more to life than landing a particular job or getting a specific qualification. More importantly, we should continue progressing and doing our best based on the opportunities provided to us. I know this is challenging, and mindsets - including those of parents, students, even some educators amongst us and society in general - have to shift. But let’s continue working on this together.
We all know that the world we live in today is drastically different from the one we grew up in, and will also be very different from the world our children will spend their adult lives in. Technological innovations, and global challenges such as economic volatility, terrorism and pandemics, will permanently change the way we live, work and play. What you do now in your schools has a lasting impact on each individual child - whether he can adapt, learn and thrive - and on society as whole. You are each helping to build something bigger.Growing Leaders Through the LEP
LEP is one of the ways that we grow leaders, so that you can go on to grow more leaders, and grow good teachers as well. 18. International visits are a good way to learn from other countries’ experiences, and discuss how we can take the good things back to Singapore. I understand that the LEP includes a two-week international study visit for its participants in five learning syndicates, each led and facilitated by an NIE staff member. The syndicate that travelled to Ontario observed how the right people were attracted to take up leadership roles in schools and how the system develops their capacity for the challenges by providing mentoring and support. The syndicate that went to Alberta noted how disconnected youths were encouraged to continue studying or acquire work skills to complete high school with the slogan “You are not broken - Finish School Your Way”. The syndicate that went to Finland saw how the education ministry pushes for more and better use of ICT in schools through the development of educational games and new teaching methods in collaboration with research agencies and industries. The syndicates that went to Munich and California both observed how the spirit of innovation and culture of experimentation permeated the German and American societies, which allowed for ideas to be shared openly amongst schools, communities and industries.
While there are valuable lessons to be learnt from each of these education systems, the syndicates also came away from the visits with a stronger understanding that each system was distinct and had different challenges to address - everyone is learning from each other. As we think about creating more pathways for students in schools, and encouraging innovation and enterprise among our young, I am sure that the insights gained from the trips will be helpful in enriching what you would like to do on the ground.
I am also glad that the LEP encouraged us to be reflective practitioners. As part of the LEP, I understand that you use the ‘5-Roles-and-5-Minds’ model of school leadership to reflect upon and draw insights from case studies of leadership and critical incidents in your own journey as an educator. You have learnt that the way we play our roles is affected by the mindsets we bring into these roles. School leaders have to be reflective as they lead their teachers to implement policies that bear fruit amongst stakeholders - often, we do not get it 100% right the first time but need to lead our staff in reflecting on how we may improve, while encouraging them to keep persevering.
Finally, I am glad that the LEP is helping to build a culture of leaders growing leaders. As participants, you would have had the opportunity to be mentored by seasoned mentor principals. Many of you shared that you have benefitted from the mentoring and appreciated their open sharing and responsiveness to your learning needs - some even had daily debrief sessions to discuss your learning! The mentors have also told us that they profited from the experience and welcomed the opportunity for self-reflection and intellectual sparring! I am heartened that the mentoring has been a mutually rewarding experience of learning and dialogue - many thanks to the Principal mentors! As School Leaders, I encourage each of you to pay it forward, and through informal and formal ways take younger leaders under your wing. We all know that being a leader is not easy, and being a good leader even tougher. Find every opportunity you can to mentor, encourage, and build up those leaders around you. Let’s be leaders who grow other leaders.Conclusion
With that, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations again to the LEP graduands! Your contribution and dedication to education will be critical in preparing the next generation of Singaporeans for both the opportunities and challenges of the future. Thank you.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) will be appointing 52 Principals at the Appointment and Appreciation Ceremony for Principals, which will be held on 30 December 2014. Of these, 20 are newly-appointed Principals. (Please refer to Annex A for the details.)
Principals are key to shaping and strengthening the culture and ethos of our schools. They lead and inspire teachers, and work with parents and the community to help students discover their strengths and pursue their passions.
The appointment is an important milestone for the 20 newly-appointed Principals as they assume major responsibilities as leaders in education. For the 32 serving Principals and HQ officers assuming new appointments, it is an affirmation of MOE’s confidence in them to continue guiding our teachers and our young. The systemic process of appointing and rotating of Principals allows schools the benefit of fresh perspectives and enables experienced Principals to share best practices in support of ‘Every School, a Good School’. It also gives the Principals the opportunity to take on new challenges as part of their career development.
Ms Ho Peng, Director-General of Education, will present the Letters of Appointment to the Principals at the Appointment and Appreciation Ceremony. The ceremony will also acknowledge the contributions of retiring Principals and Senior Education Officers from MOE HQ who had formerly served as Principals. Minister for Education, Mr Heng Swee Keat, will grace the ceremony as Guest-of-Honour.
Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Alumni Homecoming - Alumni Night
I am very happy to be here this evening to celebrate the success and achievements of Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) alumni, who have come back in this Homecoming to their alma mater to interact with one another and to build their bond with the university. First, my heartiest congratulations to all our award winners. I am very happy to see how over the years NTU has nurtured many students who have gone on to make important contributions in their respective fields. This is something that NTU should be very proud of.
Tonight is the third time I am attending this event. I was here in 2012. NTU has made significant strides over the last few years in building on its foundations in its earlier years to establish itself as a world-class outstanding university. This is something which I’m sure alumni here are very proud of.
Just like Singapore, NTU would not have been able to achieve this if not for the hard work, commitment and the support of many people, including the students and alumni. Tonight, let me share some thoughts on how NTU can continue to engage and develop our students and alumni. I would like to touch on two points.
One is how NTU can continue to engage students to combine both head and heart, and, secondly, how the university should encourage and support students’ learning, even after they graduate.Combining Head and Heart
NTU has made significant strides in research excellence, as well as in teaching. By different measures of research excellence and academic rankings, NTU has moved up very rapidly globally. This is very commendable, and I want to congratulate Professor Bertil Andersson and the faculty for this important achievement. Certainly, you have made an important academic impact, and are also beginning to make an impact in the economy, in the way that research in the university is being applied in the broader economy, and in order to create a better life for all Singaporeans.
Even more important than academic impact and impact in specific fields, it is the impact that students and alumni make in the world and in our Singapore society that will distinguish NTU in the long run. This impact comes from NTU’s ability to inspire students to hone their talents, skills and expertise in order to accomplish something important and major, and in the service of others - i.e. students who can combine both head and heart. Every year, thousands of students pass through the portals of NTU. If each and every one of our students can go on to make an impact in the world, in ways big or small, the collective impact from this university will be very significant. Many of NTU’s alumni are great role models in this, and we can learn a lot from the award winners this evening. Let me pick out two of the award winners to illustrate my point.
The first is Madam Zuraidah Abdullah, recipient of the Nanyang Distinguished Award. Currently the Deputy Chief Executive (Admin) of the Home Team Academy, Zuraidah has been serving in the police force for over twenty five years. In 2013, Zuraidah was appointed Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, the first female officer to achieve this. She is now our most senior female Police Officer. Zuraidah graduated from NTU with a degree in civil engineering. This was put to good use through the setting up of cameras along the Pan Island Expressway, to help us keep our roads safer and to save lives. This unwavering commitment to Singapore’s safety and security is inspiring, and something that all of us can be proud of and learn from.
How can NTU nurture more students like Zuraidah? The demands placed on our universities may change with time, but the duty of the university to nurture responsible citizens remains constant. The life of a university student cannot revolve around the lab or library or the lecture hall. The university must create opportunities for students to apply their knowledge for the benefit of society.
I am glad that NTU recognises this. At the NTU Fest I attended in August, I learnt much about NTU’s students’ community service projects. There were many projects that were showcased and I thoroughly enjoyed what the students told me. One of these projects was an expedition to build infrastructure and bring drinking water to a village in Laos. There, the villagers depended on ground water and a nearby mountain stream for their household needs and to grow crops. It is a very arduous task to get water. During the dry season, water would be in short supply and had to be fetched from a river in another village. 137 NTU students, including those from the School of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the School of Physical & Mathematical Sciences participated in this project - the largest student effort under NTU’s Overseas Exposure Programme.
This project was great! Students used their skills and knowledge from the classroom to build the pipes, direct the water and distribute it to different parts of the village. Speaking to the students, you can feel their passion, and how they think that it is a meaningful way for them to spend their time and to make use of what they have learnt in NTU. This is what education is really about - giving people the skills, knowledge, and most importantly, the heart, to want to make a difference to the people and communities around them.
The NTU Fest is just one example of how our university students are seeking to make a difference. I hope our universities will continue to nurture responsible students and inspire them to apply what they learn to make a positive impact in our society and in the world.Supporting Lifelong Learning
Let me move on to my second point - that learning does not end the minute you graduate. In fact, it only marks the beginning. Technology will continue to drive change, and some of this change will be disruptive. The nature of jobs will continue to evolve, so our mindsets will have to change as well. The old paradigm where one gets all our learning in the first 20 and 21 years of our lives is outdated. More and more, we need to learn, unlearn, and relearn continuously throughout one’s lifetime. I hope that NTU can continue to provide support for students to continue learning even after they graduate.
Mr Ho Ho Ying, also a recipient of the Nanyang Distinguished Award, epitomises this spirit of lifelong learning. Taking pride in the quality of his work, Mr Ho works relentlessly at his craft. For his dedication, hard work and his commitment to excellence, he has been conferred countless honours, including the Cultural Medallion Award for Visual Arts in 2012, the Outstanding People of the 20th Century Award for Achievement by International Biographical Centre (IBC) England, and 500 Leaders of Influential Achievement Award (20th Century Artist and Writer), given by the American Biography Institute. A self-taught artist for the most part, Mr Ho went back to school to take up a postgraduate course in art history at the age of 61! Now, even in his 70s, Mr Ho continues to stay engaged in the art scene. Just in March this year, he held a solo exhibition at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, presenting his works spanning from the 1950s to the early 2000s.
The younger generation of students and alumni can learn from Mr Ho’s insatiable curiosity and determination for excellence. I am sure many of them already have. Our students in schools today are no longer satisfied with what their teachers tell them. Indeed, they will ask “why?”, “why not?”, “how?” and “how can we do better?”. These are questions which teachers may not necessarily know the answer to. Today’s student can go on to the Internet or on to YouTube, and many aspects of knowledge are freely available. Our universities need to keep up with the demand of this new generation of learners. Our universities need to think about how best to use technology to keep in touch with learners of all ages. Our universities should support and build upon our students’ drive to learn, throughout their time in school, and even after they graduate.
In this aspect, I’m glad that the NTU Centre for Continuing Education has an extensive range of programmes for alumni and the public to encourage them to advance their knowledge and learn new skills. These programmes range from Engineering to Accountancy courses, and are taught by NTU’s own professors.
I look forward to NTU’s expansion of the list of modular online courses offered by the Centre and challenge NTU to take this a step further. Online learning platforms open up a world of possibilities, both for the current cohort of students as well as for alumni. It is a great way to keep ourselves intellectually engaged. While social events require a physical space, online engagement means universities can connect with their students anytime, anywhere, and allows them to learn at any pace. This is not only convenient for the university, it can create a vibrant learning culture within NTU and in our wider Singapore society. This is very much in line with what we eventually hope to create - in Singapore, a nation of lifelong learners, that keeps learning and enjoys the intellectual challenge of learning.
Next year, Singapore is celebrating SG50, our fiftieth anniversary of independence. This is a major event, and I hope that NTU alumni will play a major role in this celebration. In the past fifty years, our universities have played a key role in developing outstanding citizens such as yourselves. As we move towards our next fifty years as a nation, let us set new goals and face new challenges with confidence. Let us continue to nurture students who not only have a good head on their shoulders, but also the good heart to serve the community. Let us encourage the spirit of lifelong learning beyond the confines of the university. I am confident that with strong support from its students and alumni, NTU is ready to take flight and to continue to achieve even more. On that note, once again, my heartiest congratulations to all our award winners and to all our alumni, for this achievement that NTU has made over the years.
Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat at the Malay Youth Literary Association (4PM) Bestari Award Ceremony 2014
It gives me great pleasure to join you at 4PM’s Bestari Award presentation ceremony for outstanding Malay/Muslim students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).ITE- 4PM Partnership
ITE and 4PM have been working closely for more than a decade, developing the potential of many ITE students. One exemplary product of their partnership is the Project Bestari ITE, or bITE. bITE enhances the learning of our ITE students through their participation in service-learning projects in the community. Under the ambit of this project, ITE students have the opportunity to reach out to the under-privileged in our society. For example, 65 students from ITE College West participated in the Ramadan on Wheels project earlier this year. The students adopted 18 elderly families for a period of 6-months, during which they delivered food to the families’ homes monthly and took the opportunity to befriend them.
ITE also engages students of all races through developmental programmes such as camps, workshops and talks. These programmes help to develop life skills in our students, and encourage them to give back and share what they have with the community. I am happy to share that over the past 10 years, bITE has benefitted more than 24,000 ITE students.
In 2010, ITE and 4PM also launched a pilot mentoring programme called FRENZ, to guide and inspire students of all races to excel in their studies. In 2014, this collaboration has been enhanced to provide holistic support for all students. Participating students will benefit not only from academic support, but also socio-emotional and skills development support. They can look forward to fun outings and camps, as well as mentoring sessions.ASPIRE
Such collaboration supports what the Applied Study in Polytechnic and ITE Review, or ASPIRE, aims to achieve - to develop the potential of every student and provide opportunities for them to achieve their fullest potential. The ASPIRE Committee recommends the provision of more of such developmental programmes, to strengthen students’ leadership, character and resilience, and equip them with life skills that will be critical to their success not just in school, but also in life and in their future. ITE and 4PM have set a good example, and I hope to see similar collaborations between our education institutions and community organisations, because we want to develop all students to realise their potential like the 45 award recipients here today.Success Stories
Congratulations to all 45 of you. Today, we recognise and celebrate your achievements. Let me just give one example. Khairunnisa Bte Abdul Ghani was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was younger, but this did not stop her from excelling in school. With hard work and determination, she did well in her course and graduated with a perfect GPA of 4.0 in the Nitec course in Asian Culinary Arts at ITE College West. While studying at ITE, Khairunnisa also served in the Student Council and actively participated in community projects. I applaud her tenacity and passion to serve, and wish her all the best in her career.
I am also delighted to see past Bestari Award winners returning to volunteer with 4PM as a way of giving back to the community. One such person is Ms Zulayqha Zulkifli, who was the recipient of the Outstanding Bestari Award last year. Soon after receiving the award, she became a 4PM mentor at ITE College East, among her other contributions. I also understand that she is the vice-chairman of the event today. To our Bestari Award recipients today, I hope Ms Zulayqha will inspire you to do the same in giving back to the community and society.Conclusion
Last but not least, I would like to extend my utmost appreciation to the principals, lecturers and 4PM’s management committee and staff for your efforts in shaping our award recipients into who they are today. Your love and concern for these students have contributed to their success. I also would like to congratulate parents, many of whom are here with us today, for the way that you have encouraged your children and urged them to be the best that they can be. With that, thank you and congratulations again to the award recipients.