I am extremely pleased to join all of you this afternoon, at the 14th NYAA Gold Award Presentation Ceremony, to celebrate and recognise the achievements of our young people. I would also like to thank President Tony Tan for gracing this ceremony as Guest-of-Honour.
Let me begin by congratulating each and every one of our award recipients. You have demonstrated some of the very best traits as young leaders in your journey to attain the NYAA Gold Award, the pinnacle of the Programme.The FLAIR of NYAA Winners
In undertaking the NYAA Programme, all of you embarked on a journey of self-reliance and self-discovery. Your NYAA journey had five segments over the past two to three years :
- an Adventurous Journey;
- Skills Development;
- Physical Recreation and
- the Residential Project.
Each of these segments which would have encouraged you to take greater ownership of your personal development. You have had the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and the spirit of genuine service, to take part in expeditions and explorations that broadened your experiences, learn a new skill in the areas of music, arts, cooking and even photography, and to initiate a project that will benefit the community.
Through this fruitful journey, we saw an unmistakable FLAIR that emerged in each of you. FLAIR is an acronym for the following traits that we want all NYAA participants to achieve:
- F - Foresightedness
- L - Leadership
- A - Adaptability
- I - Innovativeness
- R - Responsibility
“F” for Foresightedness - this is required in order to plan ahead, foresee different scenarios, and make contingency plans. It is developed through conscious efforts and experience and is an essential trait for leaders. I understand that the Residential Project, for instance, required you to undertake a project that benefitted either a local or overseas community. One of the Gold award recipients, Sim Xin Wei, completed his Residential Project in Sichuan province, China. He, together with his team, offered their services to the children, elderly and handicapped and raised funds through various methods so that they were able to purchase daily necessities for the local community. The Residential Project provided an exceptional environment for our young people to develop foresightedness in the process of conceptualising, planning and executing the entire project on their own. I am heartened that through this, you were able to make a difference to the lives of these people that you dedicated your project to.
Next, “L” for Leadership - The NYAA provides many opportunities and platforms for participants to learn leadership skills. There have been many good examples of outstanding leadership and contributions from our youth, both at national level and across various international platforms. For example, some of the outstanding NYAA young leaders are serving in various key positions at high-level international conferences and forums such as United Nations, Commonwealth, Y20 of the G20 Summit, APEC Summit and Leaders of Tomorrow at the St Gallen Symposium, just to name a few.
I am happy that young leaders like yourselves were given the opportunity to lead groups, run programmes and through this, gain experience in your inter-personal and communications skills. With myriad opportunities provided for you to break out from your comfort zones, we will certainly look forward to having more young people coming out as leaders with a passion to serve the community.
“A” for Adaptability - Being flexible and adaptable is an important trait. In an era of rapid technological change, you will be asked to adapt frequently on the job. You will be asked to work with many different types of people. You will have to learn to work well in uncertainty and juggle different tasks well. Adaptability is a pre-requisite for everyone - but especially for leaders.
“I” for Innovativeness - Innovativeness is the ability to think out of the box. It should be used in every aspect of life - in work, career, personal life. Pursue your ideas with passion, and do good for society. I am happy to hear that many NYAA Gold Award holders were recognised for their innovative ideas with support from NYAA over the years.
One such example is Dr Angela Lee, a NYAA Gold Award recipient from the 2002 cohort, who led a team which successfully created the world’s first ecologically-friendly spectacle frame by sourcing for recycled materials that were both practical for manufacture and feasible in cost. It is always encouraging to see a rise in young Singaporeans contributing fresh ideas and plans. If you have an innovative idea, work hard to turn it into reality for the good of Singaporeans and Singapore.
Finally, “R” for Responsibility - A mark of strong character is an individual’s sense of responsibility to oneself and to the society. Through this NYAA journey, I am sure that all of you would have cultivated this personal quality - it certainly requires a high level of commitment to complete the programme and attain the Gold Award.The Importance of Instilling FLAIR in All our Young
The attributes encapsulated in FLAIR are extremely important and will determine our youths’ ability to thrive in a world that is rapidly changing because of technology - which changes how we live, work and play, as well as globalisation - which brings people from many cultures and backgrounds into the same workplaces. There is an increasing need to develop individuals not just in the academic domain, but also to instil in them the importance of soft skills, such as attitude, leadership, communication skills, teamwork, and the ability to work across cultures. Hence, through platforms in all our schools such as Co-curricular Activities (CCAs), Values-in-Action (VIA) or the Learning for Life and Applied Learning Programmes (LLP and ALPs), students will have more opportunities to grow these traits, and put them into practice.
However, it takes a whole society to nurture these traits in our youth. This is why the NYAA programme is a very valuable programme because it complements what we are doing in schools. The NYAA programme is aligned to MOE’s emphasis on developing our students’ character and competencies beyond academics. This is why NYAA programmes are formally recognised in LEAPS, the system used to recognise students’ co-curricular development in schools.Go on to Contribute to Society
For the NYAA winners - you have come a long way through the programme, and I hope that you will go from strength to strength, honing leadership skills and attributes throughout your lives. It is an accomplishment and privilege to be a Gold Award Recipient, and I encourage you to use your influence to help your classmates and friends grow in these ways too.
Many of you will go on to do good things for our society. Let me share with you two examples of inspiring NYAA winners. Mr Edward Chia, an NYAA Gold Award Holder from the 2004 cohort, who continued to contribute back to society after receiving his Gold Award and Mr Muhammad Nur Dinie Bin Abdul Aziz who will be receiving his Gold Award this afternoon.
Mr Edward Chia is the Managing Director of Timbre Group, one of Singapore’s fastest growing live music entertainment businesses. Edward is a visionary entrepreneur whose remarkable accomplishments have profoundly shaped the lives of many young talented musicians in Singapore. During his journey with the NYAA and his involvement in the arts sector, he realised that the assurance of a sizable and sustainable audience was the key for people to seriously consider music as a career. Edward, together with a friend, formed the Timbre Group in 2005 with a social mission to develop Singapore’s local music scene and nurture the aptitude of young artistes by providing opportunities and platforms to showcase their talents.
Edward says that the NYAA planted a seed in him which budded and helped him build a strong foundation on which to serve the community. He is happy to be able to contribute to society through his talents and network, and through the Timbre Group, which has grown and established itself as a champion for Singaporean musicians.
For his leadership and contributions, Edward has been awarded many distinguished awards such as the Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year by the Singapore Tourism Board in 2010, the Outstanding Young Alumni Award by the National University of Singapore in 2011 and the Singapore Youth Award 2014 for his bold entrepreneurial drive and exemplary contribution towards the socio-economic empowerment of the community.
We also have Muhammad Nur Dinie Bin Abdul Aziz, a Medical student at the National University of Singapore, this year’s recipient of the NYAA Gold Award. As part of his NYAA Residential Project, he gathered a group of friends with similar interests and initiated a project with YouthReach at the Singapore Association of Mental Health to create greater awareness and understanding about youth with mental illness. They came up with solutions through group meetings, online conferences and e-mail correspondence and maintained an effective bridge of communication which allowed them to get important and useful feedback which they then used to improve their ideas. They also organised outings for youth with mental illness and worked with external organisations that serve the needs and well-being of these mentally ill youth in order to better understand how to help them. Muhammad Nur Dinie strongly believes in partnership and collaboration and he has shown that he is not afraid of trying new ways of working with youth with mental illnesses.
The Residential Project was an eye-opener for them with many real-life lessons that they could not have learnt in a classroom. Muhammad Nur Dinie says that the experience with NYAA taught him how to overcome challenges. Along the way, he also discovered his own ability to adapt and be flexible when facing obstacles as well as to find different ways to overcome these obstacles. These experiences have strengthened his capabilities and commitment as a leader who is willing to serve the community.
I am happy to see that the Gold Award Holders’ Alumni is brimming with bright young role models leaders like Edward, Muhammad Nur Dinie, Sim Xin Wei and Dr Angela Lee. We are proud of their achievements and contributions and we hope that they will inspire even more young people to follow in their footsteps.Conclusion
To all NYAA Operating Authorities, principals, NYAA Award Coordinators and teachers, thank you for your support in providing our young people the very best in youth development through the NYAA Programme.
To the NYAA Board and Council Members, thank you for making NYAA what it is today and constantly striving to improve the programme so that we can provide even more opportunities for our youth.
To parents and family, thank you for supporting them in their NYAA journeys and encouraging them to further develop their potential.
Heartiest congratulations once again, to all the NYAA Gold Award Recipients, and I wish you the very best in your endeavours.
Thank you very much.
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.