Under the bilingual education policy, all students in our primary and secondary schools are required to offer a Mother Tongue Language (MTL).
In implementing the policy, we exercise some flexibility and allow students with exceptional circumstances to offer an approved Foreign or Asian Language in lieu of MTL. There are broadly two groups of students who can be given this permission. They are either students who join the school system mid-stream from non-MTL speaking countries, or students with at least one parent who is foreign born and of non-Chinese/Malay/Indian ethnicity.
Over the past five years, the group of students offering an approved Foreign or Asian Language has remained small, at around 1% of a PSLE cohort on average. The proportion of Singapore students doing so has remained stable, at around 0.2% of each cohort.
The recommendations of the 2012-2016 Enabling Masterplan (EM) cover a range of issues, including those relating to improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of Special Education (SPED).
To improve quality, we have reviewed the SPED curriculum and built teacher capacity.
The SPED Curriculum Framework was launched in 2012 to guide the design and delivery of curriculum in SPED schools. A well- designed curriculum will better enable SPED students to achieve quality living, learning and working outcomes. We have helped every SPED school to set up curriculum teams to translate the Curriculum Framework into quality learning experiences based on the student profile in the school. Schools have also set up Professional Learning Teams to support teacher-led curriculum innovation. MOE has supported these teams with training and consultancy in curriculum development. Curriculum improvement is a long-term undertaking and MOE will continue to work hand-in-hand with SPED schools to meet our students’ needs.
Skilful and committed teachers are essential if we are to teach well. To enhance the professionalism of teachers in the SPED schools, MOE has worked with the National Institute of Education (NIE) to introduce courses such as the Diploma in Special Education and the Advanced Diploma in Special Education. MOE has also provided training funds to expand the opportunities for professional development for all SPED teachers. SPED schools have used these training funds to conduct workshops and support teachers’ participation in local and overseas conferences.
To address accessibility, MOE has been monitoring the SPED landscape and studying disability trends so that we could work with the SPED sector to provide sufficient places for students of different disabilities.
MOE has made significant investments in SPED school infrastructure over the years to increase the capacity of SPED schools catering to different disability profiles. We funded the construction of 15 purpose-built SPED schools and refurbished 5 SPED schools with customised facilities. We have also expanded the capacity of specific SPED schools to meet the rising demand for places catering to specific disabilities. For instance, in 2012, a new wing was constructed for Metta School, and the new and larger campus for Delta Senior School was completed in 2013.
Overall, there are sufficient vacancies within the SPED schools for new student admissions. However, we are seeing an increase in the number of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and higher demand for schools catering to ASD. Some of these schools now have waitlists for admission. To reduce these waitlists, MOE is expanding the physical capacity of these ASD schools, and working closely with the National Council of Social Services (NCSS) and SPED schools to recruit more teachers.
Moving forward, MOE, together with the NCSS, will continue to monitor SPED school places, infrastructure and manpower situation, to ensure that all students with moderate to severe special educational needs have timely access to SPED schools.
MOE has also been working to enhance the SPED curriculum to better equip students with the knowledge and skills for independent living and integration into society.
We have introduced vocational education in SPED schools to develop work habits and skills that prepare students for work in a regular workplace so that they integrate better into society. Gainful employment can enable our SPED graduates who are capable of work to develop a sense of self-worth, independence and dignity.
We are also enhancing transition support for SPED students to post-school living, learning and working options in ways which are suited for different profiles of student. MSF recently set up SG Enable, which will look into enhancing training and employment options for adults with disabilities. MOE is working closely with MSF and SG Enable to better facilitate students’ transition from school to work and to expand the range of vocational training opportunities, work experience and employment opportunities for students.
The Ministry of Education is monitoring the provision of school bus services. In recent months, we have received feedback from some parents regarding the availability and affordability of school bus services as well as feedback from the school bus operators on the challenges and cost pressures that they faced.
We appreciate the need for school bus services to be affordable for parents and financially viable for bus operators. We are looking into the feedback provided, and will be engaging school bus operators to discuss the issues. We will also work with LTA on these.
The vast majority of students across our publicly-funded schools and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) are Singaporeans.
Having international students (IS) benefits Singaporeans. First, the diversity of students from different backgrounds adds vibrancy to the campus, and enhances global awareness and cross-cultural skills that prepares Singaporean students for the global market place of the future, where such soft skills will matter. Second, by augmenting our labour force, we ease the shortage in our labour market and make it easier for companies to continue to invest in Singapore to create good jobs for Singaporeans. Third, the reservoir of goodwill, friendship and trust generated among those who study here enable Singaporeans to form strong ties with them and expand opportunities for Singaporeans in the future.
Out of the total enrolment in our national schools (Primary Schools, Secondary Schools and Junior Colleges), around 9% are PRs and another 5% are IS.
At the tertiary level, in each year, IS make up around 1% of the Institute of Technical Education’s (ITE) intake, around 10% of the Polytechnics’ intake, and around 15% of the Autonomous Universities’ (AUs) intake. PRs make up another 3-5% of the cohort.
Over the past five years, the average number of students given MTL exemption in the five schools with the highest number of exemption cases is 178.
The private education landscape is diverse, and there is varying quality among private education courses and providers. One of the aims of the Council for Private Education (CPE)’s regulatory framework is to protect the interests of students, by ensuring minimum standards in corporate and academic governance, strengthening student fee protection measures, and requiring PEIs to disclose key information on courses and teachers, so that students can make more informed choices. However, registration by CPE is not an endorsement or accreditation of the academic quality of programmes offered by private education institutions (PEIs). Hence, there is no guarantee that degrees from PEIs are of the same quality as the degrees offered by our local, publicly-funded universities.
Given the diversity of qualifications and experiences of students, the range of programmes that are offered by PEIs and the diverse requirements of employers, it is difficult to have a central authority that assesses or accords recognition to degrees for employment purposes. For external degree programmes (EDPs), CPE’s role is to safeguard the interests of students and the public by ensuring that EDPs meet certain minimum threshold standards, as regulations for degree-awarding institutions differ from country to country. Some factors which CPE considers include the accreditation status of the awarding institution, the track record of the awarding institution, and whether the EDPs offered are subject to the same academic assurance processes as the programmes offered in the home campuses.
As we move towards a society that places stronger emphasis on the mastery of skills, PEIs should ensure that students attain skills that are valuable to industry, and that will enable them to advance in their careers based on their skills. This may require a re-orientation for some segments of the PEI sector, to ensure that programmes offered are industry-relevant, beneficial to students, and help graduates achieve good employment outcomes.
Individuals on their part need to exercise care, and acquire all the necessary information before making decisions about their education pathways. Otherwise, the time, effort, and money invested may not produce the expected returns.
Under the Education Act, centres offering tuition or enrichment programmes with 10 or more students must be registered with MOE. This does not include private tuition teachers or tuition agencies. If disputes between such parties and their consumers cannot be resolved mutually, consumers may consider mechanisms such as mediation, lodging a complaint through Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), the Small Claims Tribunal, or seeking legal assistance in the matter, depending on the nature and details of each dispute.
Currently, there are no plans to regulate private tuition teachers or tuition agencies. Parents and students should exercise their discretion and carry out basic checks before engaging them, such as checking the credentials of tutors.
MOE Sexuality Education is taught by selected teachers trained in sexuality education. Schools may engage external providers to conduct supplementary sexuality education programmes based on the needs of their students.
In 2014, 7 schools engaged 4 approved external providers for $20,000. There were no free-of-charge programmes from 2011 to 2014. Since 2009, schools spent an estimated amount of $460,000 on such supplementary programmes, an average of $8 per student.
MOE has a stringent vetting process to select suitable external providers, trainers and relevant programmes for sexuality education in schools. Teachers sit in to observe the programme and provide feedback to MOE on the quality of the trainers and relevance of the programmes. Schools also collect feedback from their students. MOE audits schools to ensure that the programmes are delivered according to what has been approved. MOE is in the process of reviewing the system of external providers. This is part of the regular review process.
During one such review, MOE had in 2011 decided that the 4-hour Relationship Module which was conducted by external providers for first year pre-university students would cease from 2015. To streamline and reduce overlaps, some of the more important learning objectives were incorporated into the revised 2015 Sexuality Education curriculum taught by MOE teachers.
Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah at Sembcorp Marine’s 12th Green Wave Environmental Care Project for Schools Award Presentation Ceremony 2014
I am delighted to be here this morning at the 12th Award Presentation Ceremony of the Green Wave Environmental Care Project for Schools, and to meet so many students and like-minded individuals who share the passion for our environment.
It is never an easy task to organise and develop an environmental outreach programme like the Green Wave. As such, I would like to commend Sembcorp Marine and Sembawang Shipyard for making these efforts to organise this annual competition every year since 2003. The care for, and protection of, our environment has to involve many stakeholders; and I am heartened to note that Sembawang Shipyard’s business partners - oil majors BP Shipping and Shell - are part of this meaningful environmental outreach programme as co-sponsors for the top awards for the Tertiary and JC/ITE levels. My thanks go out to everyone involved in taking this pro-active step to nurture in our younger generation an appreciation for the importance of environmental care and protection.
I understand that the Green Wave platform has reached out to more than 12,000 students since 2003. This is very encouraging, and it is even more heartening to see an increasing level of participation from our schools and students over the years in the Green Wave programme. In fact, I have been told that close to 1,000 students took part this year, and that a total of 287 projects were submitted. I am also glad to note that Sembawang Shipyard has expanded the Green Wave environmental competition beyond Singapore, in order to further its environmental outreach efforts. The competition is now open to regional tertiary institutions, providing a good platform for students from Singapore and their counterparts to share knowledge and exchange ideas for environmental improvement.
I am also inspired and uplifted by the enthusiasm and passion shown by the students in sharing their creative ideas, and I like to believe that their positive attitude will strengthen our confidence in tackling the environmental challenges that Singapore may face in the future. It is also my hope that more schools and students will be motivated to take part in the competition, and challenge themselves to consider how we can each play a role in protecting the environment around us.The Challenges of Sustainable Development
We must recognise that managing Singapore’s environment is challenging, and it requires continuous attention and effort. Sometimes, it is also a balancing act. We need to make good use of our limited land and resources in ways that take care of our environment, while also meeting our future demands for uses such as housing, infrastructure, and industry.
On one hand, we can be innovative and integrate green or eco-friendly features into our development projects, such as green spaces, vertical gardens, solar panels, energy-efficient lights, water-saving features, or even the use of recycled or biodegradable materials. As a matter of fact, the Green Wave Environmental Care Project for Schools is a good example of a promising avenue that encourages such creativity in our students.
Yet, on the other hand, we sometimes have to make difficult choices instead, based on the needs of those of us who live, work, and play in Singapore. In other words, we may not always have the best of both worlds. How, for example, do we develop a plot of land that will best meet Singapore’s needs? We have to weigh our options carefully, and realise that this piece of land that we may choose to develop as a park or reserve, is also the site of a potential new school building, or perhaps even a new hospital.
Hence, there is a growing need to also consider the fine balance that needs to be struck between the future of Singapore’s development and the management of our limited environmental resources. Very often, the issues surrounding development and the environment can become complex, and in reality, the solutions may not be as apparent or straightforward as we often want or hope them to be. We must recognise that planning for the long term in land-scarce Singapore will most likely require us to make hard decisions. It is something that Singaporeans have to come together and discuss and debate and take into consideration all the different needs in society.Working Together as a Society
To manage Singapore’s limited resources and address Singapore’s environmental sustainability challenges, we must also build on vibrant partnerships and co-operation across the 3P sectors - private, public and people. The Green Wave is one such vibrant partnership, and a useful platform for getting our students and youths involved in recognising the roles people in Singapore can play in managing the environment.
I am glad to see that through this competition, different parts of society are working together to encourage environmental consciousness. While Sembawang Shipyard, BP and Shell have sponsored this project, representatives from agencies such as the Ministry of Education, National Environment Agency, Singapore Environment Council, NParks, Singapore Science Centre, Public Utilities Board, Housing Development Board of Singapore and tertiary institutions like NUS, NTU, NIE, SUTD and the Polytechnics were involved in assessing the projects. Many of the judges of the competition have been involved in Green Wave for more than 10 years so kudos to all of you for your unwavering support and commitment to this meaningful cause. I am sure the students will benefit from your expertise and guidance.
It is my hope that this competition will not only allow our students to gain an appreciation of the environmental challenges that both Singapore and other countries face; but more importantly, also ignite within them a life-long interest and enduring concern for the environment around them.Opportunities for Applied Learning
Finally - and I am speaking to the students among us - I am glad that this competition has given you a chance to make good use of what you learn in school. You came up with creative, out-of-the-box solutions, and experimented with ideas and technologies to protect the environment. You worked in teams to identify pressing environmental issues, and undertook research to come up with practical and innovative solutions. You learned teamwork, independent thinking, and the ability to apply what is learnt in the classroom to real-world problems. I encourage you to apply these skills to other areas of your learning, and apply them throughout your life.
Let me just give you two examples of the creative solutions the students came up with:The team from Anglican High School - which won the 1st Prize at the Secondary Level - found out that in 2013, about 0.7 million tonnes of our recyclable paper waste were transported overseas for recycling as there are no paper-recycling mills in Singapore. The team recognised that relying on transporting paper waste overseas to recycle paper required a large consumption of fossil fuels, and is therefore not an environmentally friendly option. The team’s research highlighted the high absorbency and biodegradable nature of newspaper, and using simple equipment and household items, the team developed a cost-effective and easy way to recycle unused newspapers into cat litter.
The team from ITE College West - which won the 1st Prize at the JC/ITE Level - integrated their technical skills with nature conservation and sustainable environmental development. The team visited the Singapore Zoo in July 2012, and discovered that the existing reptile incubators not only had a poor ventilation system that led to the formation of mould, but also did not allow zookeepers to monitor the condition of the reptile eggs effectively. Following this, the team employed their specialised and technical expertise to redesign and upgrade the reptile egg incubator system. The team made use of a discarded chiller, and introduced a unique automatic air-exchanger system to improve ventilation. They also drilled small holes to resolve water-trapping and remove excess moisture, and introduced a hygro-thermometer to facilitate the monitoring of the condition of the reptile eggs.
These are but only two of the many innovative solutions that our teams of students have come up with, and I highly encourage all of us here this morning to view the rest of the winning projects later. I am certain that the students will be most willing to share with you their creative ideas.
With that, I would like to congratulate all the award winners and participants. Keep up the good work, and I am sure your green ideas and efforts will make a difference to our environment, and to Singapore.