Thank you for inviting me to join you as you celebrate the Indian New Year.
Some may not know that, in India, there are many New Years. Every state celebrates the new year in its own way, going by different names, such as Puthaandu, Vesaki and Vishu. Some adorn their homes with kolams, some visit the temple for blessings, some prepare special dishes. Each custom represents a unique culture. These customs are alive and well in Singapore, reflecting the diversity within our Indian community.
While in name and rituals, the various Indian New Year celebrations may seem like distinct festivals, the same thread of hope and joy runs through each celebration. It is a happy day. There is thanksgiving for the past year, preparation for a fresh one, and, of course, a celebration of family and loved ones, with whom we hope to share the new year, and many more years to come. These are sentiments that we all celebrate, regardless of race.
Five years ago, under the leadership of the Little India Shopkeepers & Heritage Association (LISHA) and the Hindu Endowments Board, our various Indian communities came together to organise an Indian New Year Celebration that would embrace the different Indian New Year practices.
This is a good idea. Bringing the various Indian communities together through the Indian New Year Celebrations has paved the way for greater co-operation, understanding and sharing. Each community can showcase its own culture while learning more about those of others. Participants started to attend one another’s events, and, over time, have come to understand and appreciate one another’s heritage more deeply. The wider Singaporean community can enjoy a much richer cultural environment thanks to your efforts in keeping the diverse Indian cultures alive.
There is one more important thing you have achieved - by embracing and celebrating our diversity, you emphasise all that we share in common and you are growing the space for shared understanding. In Singapore, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to celebrate many times throughout the year, for many different reasons, each in its own unique way. Whatever our backgrounds, we join one another on big days like Deepavali, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Vesak Day and Christmas. Each of these occasions is a chance for us to connect meaningfully and to build greater understanding across cultural boundaries. We embrace all of these as Singaporean days of celebrations.
As we see greater diversity in our society, we must continue to harness the strength that comes with that diversity, and to build our common spaces, as you have done. This is not just a nice-to-have; it is important to the kind of Singapore society that we hope to have, one where every member feels valued for his unique qualities and heritage. In difficult times, it will be precisely this common space, these feelings of having shared important moments together, that will keep us as one. In this, I hope many more of us can learn from your good example with the Indian New Year celebrations.
Indeed, I hope to see this same spirit when Singapore celebrates our 50th anniversary next year. Just as you have come together spontaneously to celebrate the commonalities within the diversity of our Indian community, I hope that our SG50 celebrations will be a similar celebration of all that our diverse communities cherish in common about Singapore. And just like today’s celebrations, the best celebrations will be the ground-up ones that grow out of the community itself. On the part of the government, we will create opportunities and give support good ideas to come to fruition. I hope to hear some exciting ideas from you today.
I thank LISHA and all the community organisations for creating this wonderful celebration and giving us all this opportunity to celebrate what we have in common together.
And I wish you Putthaandu Vaazhthukkal (“Happy New Year”). May the new year bring you and your families much happiness and success! And may we meet again next year with even more in common to celebrate.
Nandri (“Thank you”).
We are entering an age where there are increasing demands to do more for our students in some instances, and less in others. Whatever the case may be, the reality facing our education system today requires a deep understanding of the fast-changing and challenging world that we, in MOE and as a fraternity, must continue to navigate in order to build a better future.
Even as there are challenges, I am heartened by the many stories I hear (some of which you will hear later) about the unwavering steadfastness of our teachers and education partners. Our teachers and education partners continue to make a positive difference to students’ lives, giving hope and opportunity, and helping them understand and embrace their potential, whatever the starting point. Our school leaders show good foresight and whole-hearted dedication as they role-model the commitment to excellence, being inspiring leader-mentors to both staff and students.
Indeed, the essence of teaching remains the same; to lead, care and inspire. We need caring and reflective teachers who are committed to their craft, eager to push the frontiers of learning. Our teachers and education partners are committed to working together to continue to inspire our students to be the best that they can be. The strength of our education system lies therefore in our people, and we must recognise that our teachers, education partners and school leaders have been instrumental in contributing to the success of our education system. On this note, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the 7,103 MOE officers who have been promoted this year. They comprise 6,650 Education Officers, 272 Allied Educators (AED) and 181 Executive and Administrative Staff (EAS). Congratulations to you on your well-deserved promotion.Pivotal Role of Teachers and Leaders as Mentors
At the recent MOE COS Debate, I emphasised on MOE’s commitment to bringing out the best in every child. To maximise the potential of each child, teachers and leaders must continue to live out the vision of the Teaching Service; to lead, care and inspire.
Dr. Fadilah Bte Isnin, an officer with the Malay Language Centre of Singapore, leads the way to ensure that every child can learn, whatever the starting point. She has developed resources and programmes to help primary school students learn the Malay Language effectively, supporting them to become active learners and proficient users of the language. For instance, she created a ‘Developing Basic Reading Skills Package’ to help students who have difficulty grasping basic reading skills acquire the confidence and ability to read. She would also guide teachers in schools on the use of such packages. Fadilah’s commitment to enhancing students’ active learning and teachers’ pedagogical capability serves as an inspiration to us all.
On this note, I would like to congratulate Fadilah, who has been promoted as well as appointed Principal Master Teacher, the pinnacle of the Teaching Track, joining 5 other Principal Master Teachers in their pursuit to role-model the commitment to excellence in teaching and learning, recognised for their leadership in, and contributions to the Teaching Service.
Teacher-mentors play an essential role in nurturing a stronger teacher-led culture of professional collaboration and excellence. Mrs Gopala Krishnan, a Lead Teacher at Yishun Town Secondary School, plays a crucial role in guiding and mentoring the teachers in her department, and helps to develop their competencies in teaching History and Social Studies as well as conducting both local and overseas field trips. Gopala leads the department’s Professional Learning Circle (PLC) in developing lesson packages based on Concept-Based Teaching and conducted structured sharing sessions on content knowledge and pedagogies. She also shares extensively at school, cluster and national levels. Form Teachers also appreciate the advice she shares in managing students. To bring out the best in the child, our schools must have competent teachers who have a growth mindset.
Teacher-mentors like Fadilah and Gopala have the ability to influence lives. As mentors, they nurture and inspire younger teachers, touching not only their minds but also their spirits, and changing the way they see and feel about themselves. The multiplier effect of teacher-mentors is thus very high. Such influence is truly a rare privilege that must be respected and cultivated.Negotiating Challenges Ahead
As we strive to create a better future for our students, taking care of our students’ needs in every domain of learning and providing multiple pathways for every child to succeed, our schools must be ready for greater complexities ahead. It is not easy to overcome problems and challenges because they will always be there, but I believe that our teachers and leaders will continue to display a willingness to transform problems and challenges into great opportunities, for themselves and for their students.
A Head of Department at Northbrooks Secondary School who oversees the development of Normal (Technical) students, Mr Donny Lee deeply values the holistic development of every child. He recognises that a low self-esteem affects a child’s ability to learn and to realise his true potential. It is this belief that has led Donny to conceptualise and implement a special programme to leverage students’ talents through the use of experiential learning. He addresses his students as those who are Naturally Talented (NT), believing that they have hidden talents waiting to be discovered. In so doing, Donny has been successful in helping his students unleash their hidden potential.
Every child can succeed, though they may have different needs as a result of their varied interests, temperaments and attitudes. Mr Chong Woon Hoy, a Head of Department at West Grove Primary School who oversees student development, recognises this. He feels that it is important that he continually engages teachers and partners, to work together to make a positive difference to every student’s life, whatever their starting point. For example, Woon Hoy would always seek teachers’ and parents’ perspectives on the diverse range of student development programmes that have been implemented in the school, so that the school can continue to help every child become better.
Complementing the efforts of our teachers to enable every child to succeed, our Senior Specialists continue to play a crucial role in developing practices that meet the needs of the education system. As a Principal Specialist, Dr. Poon Chew Leng, a Deputy Director of Planning Division, is responsible for harvesting best practices from international education research platforms, and evaluating findings from international studies such as PISA, to inform teaching and learning. Chew Leng recognises the importance of being actively involved in the field, to keep abreast with recent developments and to understand various roadblocks to implementation. The willingness to take up new challenges in exploring emerging areas of need to develop expertise and knowledge will, no doubt, continue to support the development of our teachers and students in the areas of teaching and learning.
Congratulations to Donny, Woon Hoy and Chew Leng on their promotion. It is also my pleasure to share with you that 1 Principal Specialist and 3 Lead Specialists have been appointed this year, bringing our total of Principal Specialists and Lead Specialists to 5 and 7 respectively. These Senior Specialists are recognised for their pioneering efforts in more specialised areas of work such as curriculum and assessment, education research and measurement, as well as guidance. Congratulations to the newly appointed Senior Specialists too.
The examples I have just shared reflect how our teachers and Senior Specialists are more than able to make use of various opportunities. Your commitment to harnessing meaningful, creative ways to lead and manage changes will certainly leave a lasting impact. I am confident that you will continue to rise to the occasion, and do your level best to contribute to the holistic education experience of our students.Crucial Role of Education Partners
As we applaud the contributions of our teachers, we must not forget the crucial role that our education partners play, working hand in hand as One MOE, to bring out the best in every child. For example, our Allied Educators, specialising in the areas of Counselling, Teaching and Learning, and Learning and Behavioural Support, continue to forge strong partnership with our teachers, and provide more specialised support for our students to help them improve self-confidence, self-esteem and sense of independence.
Mr Kenny Ong is a Lead School Counsellor at Pioneer Primary School who firmly believes that every child can succeed. Kenny had counselled a lower primary student for being disruptive in class. Working together with his parents and teachers, the student was given the opportunity to channel his energy and develop his talents through drama. He also did well to be in a secondary school of his choice, and achieved accolades in story-telling and speech competitions at national level.Working as One MOE
Teachers and education partners in both schools and HQ must continue to work hand in hand to improve and provide a holistic education experience for the students. Our administrative staff continue to provide the much-needed support to address our students’ needs and provide more streamlined services for our teachers.
Vice Principal (Administration) of St. Andrew’s Secondary School, Miss Jaslin Kok, works closely with both teachers and administrative staff to improve administrative systems in the school. She has streamlined a number of procedures and has conducted coaching sessions on budgeting for staff. She oversaw the merger of two ICT administration systems which not only created savings for the school, but also increased administrative efficiency. In addition, Jaslin has worked closely with the school counsellors to connect with partners who could provide therapy support for a student with special needs.
Mdm Tan Siaw Peng, an Assistant Director with Finance and Development Division, works closely with internal and external stakeholders such as IDA, to develop, maintain and operate complex systems, particularly those relating to Edusave and Post-Secondary Education Schemes. The Edusave system impacts more than 500,000 students while the Post-Secondary Education system serves more than 800,000 account holders. With a service-oriented attitude and strong desire to serve schools better, Siaw Peng’s commitment to constantly look at new ways to improve systems and processes to better suit students’ needs is indeed laudable.
My congratulations to Kenny, Jaslin and Siaw Peng on their promotion. They are examples of how our AED and administrative staff have made an impact on our education system.Conclusion
As we recognise the excellent work of our teachers and education partners, it is apt that we pay tribute to over 10,000 pioneer educators and staff for laying the strong foundation that we will continue to build on. To the pioneer generation of educators and staff, your stories will continue to inspire us.
To all officers who have been promoted this year, I am sure that your family members, some of whom are in the audience today, must be very proud of you. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support, which has been instrumental in allowing our officers to excel in their respective areas of work.
In concluding, I am glad that our teachers possess a strong sense of mission and embrace the greater purpose of teaching, guided by values and principles, as they continue to role-model the commitment to excellence. I am confident that our teachers and education partners will continue to work together to build a better future for our students. Let me once again congratulate all of you for a job well done. I wish you all the best in the journey ahead.
In this hall, you see Pinwheels all over and around the school and this is a very apt metaphor to show synergy and connectedness - of parents and the whole community working in partnership with the school to support the holistic development of all its students. And, just like how a little encouragement by the wind sets a pinwheel in motion, this synergistic relationship opens up invaluable possibilities for our students.
As the African saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”. This saying remains relevant and true to this day and I commend Ping Yi Secondary School for your strong support and efforts to engage and actively involve parents, stakeholders and partners in school programmes and school improvement. By fostering a close and collaborative partnership with its stakeholders and partners through school engagement and community projects, the school has been able to garner support to help it deliver the holistic and quality education it seeks to provide to all its students. I am glad to see so many of Ping Yi Secondary’s stakeholders and partners here this morning. Your presence affirms your support for the school and for its mission to bring out the best in each of its students.The Living Legacy
I am very happy to join you this morning to celebrate Ping Yi Secondary School’s 30th Anniversary and to officiate the opening of The Living Legacy. The Living Legacy traces the history of the villagers who settled here in Chai Chee way back in the 1930s. These villagers were determined to provide a good education for their children and rallied together to establish the Pin Ghee Public School. When funds were lacking, they started an abattoir and used its proceeds to fund school operations. Clearly, the innovative spirit was strong even back then.
Ping Yi Secondary has maintained this innovative spirit over the years and continually sought to provide an engaging as well as quality education to its students. It aims to nurture all its students into Individuals of distinction, strong and upright in character, passionate about learning, innovative in spirit, and with a heart to serve the community. On this occasion of its 30th Anniversary, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the Principal, staff and students of Ping Yi Secondary School.Signature Programmes
Over the years, Ping Yi Secondary has done well. In 1997, with a focus on entrepreneurship, it ran an IT Co-operative. In 2006, it started on its Restorative Practices journey to better engage and develop its students by addressing their social and emotional needs, and these efforts have been so successful that the school has been asked to share at different platforms. In that same year, the school also launched its first National Education trail, called the Go East Heritage Trail.
Today, Ping Yi is a dynamic school with a niche in Design Education. It has developed and put in place a robust programme to promote Design Thinking in students. For its efforts in this area, it has been recognised as a Zonal Centre of Excellence in Design Education and has actively shared its knowledge and expertise with other schools. In line with this, the school has also advocated the use of authentic, real-world situations to make lessons relevant and meaningful to the learners. Such a focus in teaching and learning has enabled the school to develop a school-wide approach to Applied Learning. To deliver a holistic education, and inculcate good character and values, Ping Yi has also put in place a Life-long Learning Programme in Student Leadership through Character & Citizenship Education. All these programmes reflect its strong emphasis on a student-centric, and values-driven education.
I am happy to see that the school has gone beyond the Go East Heritage Trail to develop 2 more trails to heighten students’ and the community’s awareness of our heritage and culture. I am also told that the development of these trails was informed by Design Education and the students were equipped not just with a map with well-marked paths. Rather, they were equipped with a compass and navigation skills and had to think about how to create meaningful trails. Now, this is important. We have to teach our students to think, to evaluate and know how to solve problems and respond to challenges. I would like to encourage Ping Yi Secondary to continue with your good efforts in this area. The 2012 results of the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, have clearly affirmed such efforts on our schools’ part, including the efforts of Ping Yi Secondary.Nurturing Every Child
Ping Yi Secondary is also one of the 12 prototype schools offering students higher-level subjects beyond their stream. I have been told that the students are coping relatively well and are very appreciative of this effort to cater to their diverse strengths and interests. Bringing out the best in each student and providing equal opportunities to all are fundamental goals of our education system and I want to commend the school for being steadfast in your mission to nurture all your students.
The school’s efforts and hard work have already borne fruit. For example, one of its students in the Normal Course, Marcus Goh Tao Zhi, was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Award for Outstanding Normal Course Student in 2013 for his outstanding academic and co-curricular achievements. The school has also received the Lee Hsien Loong Award for Innovations in the Normal Course in 2012 and it testifies to the achievements in both the academic and non-academic areas. Indeed, Ping Yi has succeeded in helping its students discover their strengths and interests.Dedicated Teachers
The school’s achievements speak well of its team of dedicated and caring teachers. It is clear that the teachers and school leaders have worked hard and continued to explore creative ways to engage the students. Continue with your efforts, In particular, I encourage you to continue to foster innovations and design thinking, which will certainly put our students in good stead and give them a good head-start in an ever-evolving, ever-changing world. The dedication of the teachers has made all the difference in the development and growth of the students. Keep up the good work and keep up the partnership with alumni, with the school advisory committee and with all the key stakeholders!Conclusion
Ping Yi Secondary has rightly put a focus on building quality relationships with students and parents, and fostering collaboration with partners and the community. It is this bond that allows the school to achieve more and we all achieve more together than working alone.
On this note, I would like to thank the School Advisory Committee, the Alumni body, the Parents Support Group, all parents and partners of the school for your support of Ping Yi Secondary. Indeed, it takes a whole village to raise a child and I hope this is a happy and cooperative village!
In conclusion, I would like, once again, to wish Ping Yi a Happy 30th Anniversary and all the best for a better future!
I am delighted to be here today at the official opening of Delta Senior School’s new purpose-built campus. The new campus boasts additional classrooms and vocational training facilities such as industrial kitchens and mock-ups of work sites such as a supermarket and laundrette to cater to its vocational programme. I am looking forward to touring the campus later as this new campus is more than a mere expansion of physical capacity. It represents the promise of a brighter future for APSN’s students!
The theme of today’s opening ceremony, “The Delta Journey and Beyond: We Can, We Want and We Will,” encapsulates the passion and determination of the APSN family of schools to provide learning opportunities to enable each APSN student to realise his or her potential. This relentless spirit of continuous improvement to offer quality education has served Delta well.
Since its inception in 1997, Delta has transformed the lives of many youths with special needs, nurturing them to lead dignified and fulfilling lives. Delta started as a senior school providing pre-vocational education and training for 65 students with Mild Intellectual Disability. Today, the school has grown almost five times to close to 400 students. Delta’s vocational programme has also grown, and the school offers a fully accredited Workforce Skills Qualification vocational programme.
On this note, I wish to specially thank the past and present Presidents, Board members, and staff of APSN for their dedication and many contributions. Through your visionary foresight, working in close partnership with MOE and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), Delta has achieved significant growth over the years and achieved many key milestones.Developments in the SPED Landscape
The growth of Delta mirrors the progressive improvements that have been made in our national landscape to support students with special needs. The profile of students with special needs vary greatly. In line with the recommendations in the Enabling Masterplans, my team at MOE has been working closely with the SPED schools to raise the quality of Special Education for all groups of students.
The SPED Curriculum Framework which MOE co-developed with SPED schools in 2012 is a case in point. It emphasises a holistic education underpinned by a strong foundation of core values. The curriculum framework spells out a set of ‘Living, Learning and Working’ outcomes for all SPED students. We want our students to have a strong sense of belonging to our country, to be equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to contribute to their family, community, and society.
Beyond vocational training, the school provides its students a wide range of character development programmes including school camps, personal management lessons, service learning and co-curricular activities. The school’s efforts have yielded great results, particularly in the area of sports. Delta’s athletes did Singapore proud in both the individual and team events in bowling and badminton at the 1st Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games, and at the 44th Singapore National Bowling Championship last year. At the recent 7th ASEAN Para Games held in Myanmar, Lawrence Tay, Han Liang Chou, and Bryan James Seow took home Gold and Silver medals in the backstroke, breast stroke and freestyle swimming events. Through their determination, passion and hard work, these students have overcome challenging circumstances and obstacles to achieve their goals. Well done!
To better cater to the diverse group of students with special needs, the learning opportunities and support required to enable students to be ready for gainful employment needs to be customised. Through the work they do, SPED students will develop self-esteem, personal meaning and identity. Having a job confers a critical sense of self-worth, independence and dignity. At the same time, their families would have some assurance and peace of mind of their self-reliance and ability to be integrated into society.
The various milestones in Delta’s journey as a vocational school are indeed reflections of our collective efforts to provide pathways for SPED students to fulfil their aspirations. As an ‘Approved Training Organisation’ under the Workforce Development Agency, Delta’s students graduate with nationally-recognised qualifications in the areas of Food & Beverage Operations and Culinary Arts, Hotel and Accommodation Services, and Landscape Operations. This was further expanded in 2012 to include certification in Retail Operations.
More than 90 percent of graduates from Delta’s WSQ programme are employed. This is certainly an achievement to be proud of.Student Centricity and Strong Partnerships
The high employability of Delta’s graduates testifies to the robust industry standards and sound educational practices in the school’s delivery of its vocational programme.
Every student in Delta has an Individualised Transition Plan supported by a strong team of teachers, industry trainers and professional support staff. This helps the students identify their interests, strengths, and areas where support is needed to facilitate the transition from school to the workplace.
Delta’s successful vocational programme also lies in the strong partnerships it has forged with supportive employers, corporate and community partners, who willingly provide authentic work experiences for the students. Through Delta’s ‘on-site training’ and ‘Work Experience Programmes’, students become aware of and familiar with the standards of work performance expected of different jobs, and this facilitates their eventual transition to the workplace. These meaningful and authentic work experiences have benefitted many students such as Siti Rahmah Binte Saring and Goh Rui Shen.
Siti is currently a Year 4 student pursuing the WSQ certificate in Hotel and Accommodation Services at Delta. She is in the midst of completing her Work Experience Programme at Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium, where she performs Public Area Cleaning. . Siti was able to use her knowledge on safety gears and apply it to her workplace. Besides skills-training, the school worked closely with Siti’s job coach on managing relationships and emotions in the workplace. Her supervisor shared that Siti also gets along well with her colleagues and is well-liked at work. Siti is on track to completing her WSQ certificate in Hotel and Accommodation Services in 2014, and I wish her all the best!
Rui Shen graduated with a WSQ Certificate in Food and Beverage Service from Delta Senior School in 2013 and was offered a full-time job at KFC. When Rui Shen started his work experience at KFC, he was quiet and faced some challenges. However, Rui Shen persevered and, over time, learned new tasks. With the support of his teachers and job coach, he learned to communicate effectively with others and gained confidence. I am pleased to learn that Rui Shen is doing well at work and will soon be attending a supervisory course that KFC has planned for him. Upon completion, he will be the first DSS student to become a supervisor in KFC! Mr Tham, a restaurant general manager at KFC, describes Rui Shen as a ‘star’ worker who has proven himself through dedication and hard work.
The inspiring stories of Siti and Rui Shen’s experiences in the WSQ certification programme show that given the appropriate guidance and support, our SPED students, who have the potential to work can overcome initial difficulties and challenges and be meaningfully employed.Strengthening School-to-Work Support and Customising Pathways to Employment beyond National Vocational Certification Programmes
The national vocational certification programmes offered at both Delta Senior School and Metta Schools provide one established pathway for SPED students with Mild Intellectual Disability to be gainfully employed. Such certification benefits SPED students as they are recognised by employers. To date, this pathway has enabled about 1 in 4 SPED graduates to be successfully employed.
Moving forward, there are plans to design and progressively make available more customised training pathways to benefit more SPED students. This will provide alternative training pathways for SPED students with different profiles and needs who may not benefit from the existing national vocational certification programmes. Hence, I am pleased to share a multi-agency collaboration with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and SG Enable, in partnership with SPED schools, to enhance school to work transition for our SPED students. The idea is to provide customised job opportunities and training that are designed based on the students’ diverse profiles and needs. To ensure better transition to work, training will take place at the workplace where there is authentic training and integration with other co-workers. This approach will provide more training cum work options and opportunities for SPED students.
Building this important bridge will entail cross-agency coordination of support and resources, as well as more training cum work options and opportunities to benefit SPED students with diverse needs and interests.
To this end, a multi-agency working committee has been formed to co-develop a School-to-Work transition programme that will begin in a student’s final year of school, and continue after he graduates from school and takes on a job. The committee will work closely with a few SPED schools serving students with different disability profiles, to prototype this bridging programme over a two-year period from 2014 to 2015, with the intention of making available the programme to more SPED schools in phases from 2016. The support from employers in providing more training and job opportunities customised for the participating SPED student(s) will be critical. During the prototype phase, the multi-agency team will carefully study the critical success factors, processes, and resources needed for effective transition support for students with the potential to work. The team will also be consulting with relevant stakeholders in SPED schools and the community, and will work closely with parents. This process takes time and I look towards everyone’s patience and support in this complex prototyping work which will eventually benefit many more SPED students.
In all that we do, MOE is committed to work with the SPED sector in enhancing the quality of special education to bring out the best in every child - in every domain of learning, in every school, at every stage of their journey, and whatever their starting points might be.Reaching Out to the Community
The multi-agency school-to-work transition collaboration is testament to the Government’s continued commitment to support SPED students, and is yet another positive step forward in building an inclusive society. The Government’s support of persons with special needs is also reflected in our ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which came into effect on 18 July 2013.
To build a supportive ecosystem that embraces persons with special needs as an integral part of our society, we also need the support of families, schools, employers, and each and every member of the community. I am heartened that Delta has reached out to various community partners to promote awareness of the strengths and needs of our SPED students.
For example, ITE College West, strategically located next to Delta, has collaborated to implement ‘The BuddyIN Programme’. Initiated by the National Council of Social Service, students from ITE College West and Delta are paired with the purpose of forging friendships that would encourage community integration of persons with special needs. Together, the buddies participate in various social activities and work on student-initiated projects to promote an inclusive mindset towards persons with special needs.Conclusion
In conclusion, I wish to extend my congratulations and best wishes to the students, staff and stakeholders of Delta Senior School on your official opening. Your journey is one of love and perseverance - one that has transformed and nurtured the lives of many youths. I am confident that in the years to come, you will continue to work closely with MOE and NCSS, and push the boundaries to stay ahead of the curve to support your students and their families. Your journey ahead will be one of potential and possibilities. I wish you many more fruitful and successful years ahead. Thank you.
Currently, there are 169 schools providing a total of 630 overnight parking lots for school buses. When we receive new requests for overnight parking at specific schools, MOE will work with the school bus operators on the arrangements, while taking into consideration school safety and security.
The skills required for social media etiquette and protocol are taught in the Cyber Wellness syllabus for primary and secondary schools. The syllabus is designed based on the principles of “Respect for Self and Others” and “Safe and Responsible Use” of technology. This syllabus is implemented as part of the Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum in 2014. It focuses on equipping students with social-emotional competencies and sound values so that they can be safe, respectful and responsible users of ICT.
Students learn to develop a healthy self-identity both online and offline, build safe and meaningful relationships, and make discerning choices. For example, in the topic on “Online Identity and Expression”, students learn about what is appropriate to share about oneself and consequences of insensitive remarks. For the topic on “Online Relationships”, students learn about relationship management skills and ways to interact with socio-cultural sensitivity online.
Students discuss authentic case scenarios on safe and responsible uses of internet. Teachers guide them through a reflection process so that students fully grasp the key points, change their attitudes and behaviours where needed.
The tuition fees for the full-time Nitec and Higher Nitec courses are charged on a semester basis. For Academic Year (AY) 2014, the full tuition fees before government subsidy are $5,175 per semester for Nitec and $9,325 per semester for Higher Nitec. Singaporean students pay a small fraction of the tuition fees - $155 per semester for Nitec and $280 per semester for Higher Nitec.
On the other hand, the CET programmes offered at the polytechnics and ITE are conducted on a modular certificate basis, where a full CET programme is delivered in bite-sized modules to make it more manageable for adult learners to upgrade and attain their full CET qualification. The full fees before government subsidy for such modules range between $1,140 to $3,400 per modular certificate for a CET programme at ITE and the polytechnics, depending on the level of study. However, after netting off the government subsidy, the modular certificate fees payable by Singaporean students are much lower - between $105 and $1,000 per modular certificate. We review the fees regularly to ensure that they remain affordable for Singaporeans.
Drop-out rates for the full-time Nitec and Higher Nitec programmes have improved significantly from about 35% in the 1990s to less than 20% today. Students are not likely to drop out because of high fees as MOE provides subsidies for students who need to repeat subjects for up to an additional year beyond the normal course duration of two years. ITE students who need financial assistance can also tap on government bursaries. MOE has announced that from academic year 2014, these bursaries would be enhanced significantly, with increases in the bursary quanta as well as changes to the income eligibility criteria which would allow more students to qualify. With these changes, full-time ITE students can receive up to $1,200 per annum, depending on their household income, which is more than sufficient to cover the fees payable. Financial assistance will likewise be extended for up to an additional year beyond normal course duration for eligible students who need to repeat subjects.
Besides MOE subsidies and financial assistance, ITE has also introduced several strategies to help students complete their course of study successfully, such as supporting students with weak academic foundation and providing special assistance to those who are at risk of dropping out.
The polytechnic and ITE CET programmes are modular in nature, meaning that trainees have the flexibility to pause and continue their studies at a later date, within the maximum candidature period for the programme. As the modular CET framework was introduced only in 2012, it is too early to compute programme-level drop-out rates, but we can look at the completion rates at modular level to give an indication. For the academic year 2012, the average completion rate for polytechnics CET modules is about 87%.
MOE is committed to providing quality and affordable education to all Singaporeans regardless of their financial circumstances. Our education is highly subsidised at all levels, and the Government provides a range of financial assistance schemes to assist those who may be in need.
The MOE Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) for Singaporeans in primary and secondary schools and JCs/ Centralised Institute has been enhanced over the years. In 2013, around 65,000 Singaporean students were on financial assistance in our schools. This was about 1.5 times the number of beneficiaries five years before, largely owing to changes to the criteria which enable more students to be eligible. Students on financial assistance do not pay school and standard miscellaneous fees. They also benefit from free textbooks and uniforms. Students in primary schools who qualify for financial assistance are also provided with free breakfast.
In addition, MOE provides every school with additional resources for school leaders to provide assistance to deserving students who may not meet the qualifying criteria.
Singaporean students enrolled in subsidised programmes in our post-secondary educational institutions, namely our publicly-funded Universities, Polytechnics, Arts Institutions and ITE, benefit from the CDC-CCC bursaries or the MOE bursaries. In Academic Year (AY) 2013, around 47,000 Singaporean students in these post-secondary institutions received the CDC-CCC bursaries and MOE bursaries. This was about 2.5 times the number of beneficiaries five years before, largely due to the changes in criteria in AY2011 that enable more students to qualify. From AY2014, these bursaries have been enhanced to significantly increase the bursary quanta and raise the income eligibility threshold to benefit more students. In addition, students in our publicly-funded polytechnics and universities can also take up the Tuition Fee Loan and Study Loan to cover their tuition fees and supplement their living expenses.
Beyond direct financial assistance to the students, MOE also provides the Opportunity Fund which our schools, ITE and Polytechnics can use for the provision of enrichment activities and other co-curricular development opportunities for Singaporean students from less advantaged backgrounds. The Fund can also be used to subsidise the purchase of computers for needy students in our schools under the IDA’s NEU PC Plus Programme. Under this programme, the students can own a new computer at an affordable price. MOE also partners with the Self-Help Groups in reaching out to these families or students who need additional assistance beyond MOE. Our Self-Help Groups have in place student assistance and support schemes to help needy students. We are also heartened to know that external organisations and individuals have also been keen to provide additional support to needy students. The School Pocket Money Fund is an example where corporations and individuals have donated generously to complement the assistance provided by MOE.
Beyond financial assistance, schools run programmes to support students to learn better in school. These include the Learning Support Programmes to help them level up academically. After-school care is another important area of learning support. Schools will proactively identify students from low income families who would benefit from such arrangement and encourage them to enrol in the school-based student care centres. To ensure affordability for students who are enrolled in student care centres and require financial assistance, they can apply for the ComCare Student Care Fee Assistance - a scheme administered by MSF.
I would like to take this opportunity to assure the House that an education in our schools and post-secondary institutions will remain accessible to all Singaporeans. No Singaporean student will be left behind as a result of his or her family financial circumstances.
The purpose of our participation in PISA is not to get a good global ranking. Our objective is to find out how well our students are being equipped with important life skills that are important for their future.
In the PISA study, a sample of 5,400 fifteen-year-olds was randomly selected by OECD for the pen-and-paper tasks on reading, math and science. Half of these students then went on to do a combination of the computer-based math, reading or problem solving tasks. There was no preparation required of schools and students.
PISA scores are meant to be reported at the national aggregate level, and not at the individual student or school level. The sampling technique used by OECD is such that scores at the individual and school level are not statistically meaningful. The test scores of individual students are not disclosed to the participants or to schools. Students do not have to make additional preparations for these tests. So, our participation in this study is unlikely to create stress to students.
We have also been working closely with schools, parents and the community to drive home the message that we should work together to bring out the best in every child. Among others, this means equipping them with the moral compass and the navigation skills to apply their knowledge and exercise their creativity in various contexts and situations - including those which are unfamiliar and complex. The various PISA scores give us an additional source of input and an international benchmark. The more detailed PISA findings in terms of the proportions of our students achieving at various proficiency levels also enable us to review the effectiveness of our teaching and learning strategies in levelling up the competencies of all students.
Our students’ good performance attests to their deep conceptual understanding and good thinking skills honed through the rich learning experiences provided by our schools and teachers - both in the classroom and outside of the classroom (e.g., co-curricular activities, learning journeys, Values-in-Action projects, etc.). Teachers have also made learning relevant and engaging, and ensured that students learn to use their knowledge and skills in real-life situations. It also reflects the emphasis that our parents place on education.
We will continue to work in partnership with parents to equip our students for the future.