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Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah at the Building & Construction Authority (BCA) Built Environment Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Scholarship Award Ceremony

Ministry Of Education Feed - 17 February 2015

I am happy to be here this afternoon at the BCA Industry Built Environment ITE Scholarship Award Ceremony. I want to congratulate 122 ITE scholarship recipients who have worked hard to get to where you are. I am glad you have decided to take up exciting opportunities in the Built Environment sector. I wish you all the best in your studies, and look forward to your contributions in the coming future.

Skills for a Changing Future

To all of you who are on the threshold of embarking on your chosen career, the working world that you will be going to join soon will be vastly different from what it was a mere decade or two ago. Many of you know that our present and future is being vastly changed by new technology and global economic shifts, and we have to prepare ourselves to not only survive but thrive.

What can we do? Through the SkillsFuture movement, we are starting to work towards a future where everyone has the opportunity to build on their strengths, develop skills that enable them to maximise their potential, and contribute to society, regardless of their starting point. We all need to move beyond being just competent in our current jobs, towards mastering deep skills, especially the right skills to remain relevant and take on jobs of the future. Simply put, skills are the key to our future.

What are these skills? Broadly, skills mean more than just knowledge. What matters is not just what you know, but how you use what you know: applying it in different situations and conditions, and gaining valuable experience along the way. Skills are not just ‘hard’ skills, like technical or work know-how; not simply applying mathematics or understanding the principles of engineering and the sciences, which are often associated with the Built Environment sector. Skills also include ‘soft’ skills, such as attitude, leadership, communication skills, teamwork, ability to work across cultures, deal with people, solve problems, and achieve desired outcomes. These are all equally important, and are in high demand across all sectors, including the Built Environment sector. To thrive, you will find that learning over a lifetime, and making structured learning a part of your career, is crucial to mastering skills in the Built Environment and elsewhere.

A Transforming Built Environment Sector

Mention the Built Environment Sector, and images of construction sites come readily to mind. But the sector has moved far beyond brick and mortar. It encompasses buildings and places, and everything else that is found in between. Drawing on varied disciplines like design, construction, engineering, maintenance and project management, the sector is getting to be more knowledge-driven, skills-based and technologically-advanced. While they rely on their training to think, innovate and make-create, Built Environment professionals also need to constantly adapt to changing needs and norms, and they will have to learn, unlearn and relearn new knowledge and skills. Through their willingness to pick up and excel at new skills, we get to enjoy a truly modern built environment: high living standards, where we can live, work and play in a safe, sustainable, inclusive and high quality built environment.

What has changed? Did you know that Built Environment professionals are using technology to create and share information on the job through innovative new technologies? Information on what was required and what was satisfactory is crucial in ensuring that the finished project matches what was planned. Previously, pen-and-paper plans and drawings were in widespread use until they were replaced by two-dimensional computer aided design. Recently, many companies have adopted three-dimensional Building Information Modelling (BIM), and employees are picking up new BIM skills to keep pace with the changing work processes. The technology allows building professionals of various disciplines to design and explore the building project digitally through an integrated process, even before it is built. BIM facilitates coordination among building professionals, enabling stakeholders to have a clearer understanding of the project and it enhances their ability to make better informed decisions throughout the building’s lifecycle. The sharing of information along a project life-cycle and beyond can also help all parties resolve issues early, reduce work errors, and improve efficiency and productivity.

Good Career Prospects in the Built Environment Sector

With the current transformation of the Built Environment sector, there is now even greater demand for Built Environment professionals with the right technical knowledge and skills. Based on BCA’s bi-annual employment survey 2014, about half of the firms surveyed are planning to hire this year. Together, they will play a significant role in Singapore’s economy and national development, as construction activities are vital to our economic growth. Coupled with sustained developments locally and in regional markets, there are many bright career prospects. Jobs available in the sector run the gamut from professional, managerial and executive (PME) types, to technical and associate professional (TAP) types, to supervisory and foremen types. Besides training to be a BIM modeller or specialist, those wishing to enter the sector can also train to become an architect, energy consultant, engineer, surveyor, project manager, supervisor, to name a few.

Multiple pathways are available for students wishing to deepen their skills and progress in their career. High quality pre-employment training offered by the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), polytechnics and universities provides a good head-start for those wishing to join the Built Environment sector. Upon graduation, the sector also provides Continuing Education and Training (CET) support for those planning to develop specialisations through workplace learning and industry-certified courses and specialist diplomas, all of which translate to industry recognition of competency and skills mastery.

I understand that BCA also has a comprehensive suite of apprenticeship, scholarship and sponsorship programmes which provides support for progression, both upwards and laterally, across the ITE, polytechnic and university levels. In fact, BCA has shared with me that the current ITE Scholarship scheme will be enhanced to provide greater skills deepening and progression opportunities in partnership with industry firms for ITE graduates joining the Built Environment workforce, which is aligned with the national SkillsFuture movement. Designed as a post-ITE development programme, the graduate recipients will undergo structured on-the-job training under mentorship with their sponsoring firms to build up their skills competencies. The programme would also comprise part-time industry-recognised training in areas such as BIM, design or construction supervision. Through the programme, graduates will acquire valuable work experience and take on greater roles at work, possibly progressing as CoreTrade Supervisors or BIM Specialists, coupled with higher remuneration and better job prospects.

These multiple pathways offer flexibility, where the upgrading could be taken either full-time or part-time, or in small modules over a period of time. Instead of pursuing further studies immediately after your junior college, polytechnic or ITE, you may find that working first and then pursuing further studies could be better. This brings to mind the story of 28-year-old Muhammad Roszaly, who has completed BCA’s apprenticeship programme and attained a trade diploma in electrical technology. After graduating from ITE with a Higher Nitec in mechanical engineering, Roszaly first worked as a Mechanical and Electrical (M&E) technician with a private company for two years, where he learnt through his mentor the maintenance of lifts and air-conditioning. Through the apprenticeship programme, he then joined his present company, China Jingye Construction Engineering (Singapore). He steadily deepened his skills at his workplace, developing site supervisory skills under the able mentorship of his M&E co-ordinator. Roszaly is now proficient in monitoring progress of works, carrying out inspections, checking for defects and managing site staff, contributing purposefully to the Built Environment industry.

Making an Informed Education and Career Choice

Like Muhammad Roszaly, I hope all of you will also stay open to exploring the available pathways, seize opportunities, and keep up with trends and in-demand skills sets for the Built Environment sector, as well as other sectors. Consider all options to make an informed choice. It also boils down to being aware of what interests you and what you think you do best. A career in the Built Environment sector may be right for those whose aptitude lies in being creative, problem-solving, and if you enjoy design, technology, rising to challenges, contributing to making the world a better place and are computer-savvy. It would be good too if you have a keen interest or are strong in mathematics, mechanics, computing, communication, design and management, because these subjects form the core of many Built Environment sector courses. The strong skills foundation that you acquire as you undergo training will put you in high demand from employers, in Singapore and potentially elsewhere also. Since the skills sets are transferrable across sectors and countries, there are far more options available for capable individuals to progress based on their mastery of skills and experience.

A Case of Towering Inspiration

So the challenge to you is to dream big! Currently, the tallest skyscraper and structure ever constructed in the real world is the 829.8-metre Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Back home, the 290-metre tall Tanjong Pagar Centre will be the tallest building in Singapore when it is completed in 2016. If you have played with building blocks when you were young, you would know the sense of accomplishment when you were able to stack the blocks higher and higher without them falling down. You may have intuitively recognised that behind the successful completion of buildings like Burj Khalifa, the whole team of designers and builders must have relied on their deep expertise to overcome a multitude of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Today, Burj Khalifa, as well as local awe-inspiring feats like the Marina Coastal Expressway and Marina Bay Sands, stand as monuments to the creative and productive energies of the human race, inspiring us all as they physically break away from conventional limitations in architecture to change the realm of possibilities.

Make Your Contribution to Singapore’s Built Environment

You know good buildings and places when you encounter them - not just aesthetically pleasing, but functional, user-friendly, inclusive, environmentally sustainable - in short, liveable. Singapore has had a very liveable environment, but this was not always the case. Many pioneers were living in crowded shophouses or rural kampongs, not the kind of experience we have come to expect in our modern-day residences and estates. As we celebrate Singapore’s 50th anniversary this year, it is timely to take a step back and marvel at how much our Built Environment pioneers have transformed the face of Singapore, and appreciate just how far we have come as a nation. Take not the opportunities you have been given for granted. As your forebears and pioneers have done before you, put your skills and experience you will gain to good use, and rise to the challenge of building on the legacy to carry on for the next 50 years, and shape Singapore’s built environment for the betterment of lives going forward.

Conclusion

Congratulations once again to all scholarship recipients. I wish all of you the very best as you build up a deeper level of expertise in your respective fields and I trust that you will have a rewarding and fulfilling career in the Built Environment sector. Your greatest asset will be your skills, and you will find many opportunities to sharpen them and become amazing professionals who help to build a brighter future not only for yourselves but for your loved ones, the community, and the nation.

Thank you.

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TFA's Recent Growing Pains Analyzed in New Report - Education Week

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MOE Kindergartens Launch New Programme to Help Parents Better Support Their Preschool Children's Holistic Development

Ministry Of Education Feed - 17 February 2015
Five new MOE Kindergartens to open in 2016

The Ministry of Education (MOE) Kindergartens will launch a Leading and Inspiring Families of Early Learners @ MOE Kindergartens (LIFE@MK) programme to better support parents of the children in MOE Kindergartens in understanding their children’s holistic development during the pre-school years. Five more MOE Kindergartens will open in 2016, bringing the total number of MOE Kindergartens to 15.

Launch of LIFE@MK programme

Recognising the key role that families play in enriching children’s learning experience and development, the LIFE@MK programme will offer centre-based workshops conducted by MOE specialists and MOE Kindergarten educators. The workshops will draw on the children’s learning experiences in the MOE Kindergartens and help parents understand approaches that are appropriate for their children’s holistic development. This will complement how the MOE Kindergartens build children’s self-confidence, social skills, and foundational language, literacy and numeracy skills. Other topics include supporting children’s holistic development and preparation for and transition to primary school. The centre-based workshops will be customised for the families by relating the content to the activities in their children’s kindergarten and providing practical tips and advice on how families can support their children’s learning at home.

This is in addition to the regular conversations with the families, and family bonding activities organised by the MOE Kindergartens. Parents indicated they welcomed the partnership efforts and have expressed a strong interest in how they could play a part in their child’s holistic learning and development.

Five new MOE Kindergartens in 2016

Five new MOE Kindergartens will begin operations in 2016. Four will be located within primary schools (Northoaks Primary, Riverside Primary, Springdale Primary and Westwood Primary) and one will be located in the community (Blk 470A/C Fernvale Link). Kindergarten care services will be available for parents who wish to have a full-day programme for their children at the five new MOE Kindergartens. The care services will be provided in the premises of the MOE Kindergartens.

Registration for MOE Kindergartens

The Registration Exercise for 2016 admission to Kindergarten 1 (K1) will be held in April. The registration exercise is open to Singapore Citizen and Permanent Resident children born between 2 January 2011 and 1 January 2012 (both dates inclusive).

Parents may visit the MOE Kindergartens’ Open Houses to find out more about the curriculum, programmes and facilities offered. Details of the Open Houses held in March 2015 and Registration Exercise held in April 2015 are in Annex A.

Details of the admission criteria and registration procedures are in Annex B. More information about the MOE Kindergartens is in Annex C.

Parents are encouraged to sign up for the Open House they are attending at www.moekindergarten.edu.sg. They are advised to use public transport to get to the MOE Kindergartens. Those who are driving could park at nearby public car parks.

About MOE Kindergartens

In 2013, MOE announced that 15 MOE Kindergartens would be set up over the next three years. The objectives of the MOE Kindergartens are to provide quality pre-school education that is affordable to Singaporeans, to pilot teaching and learning resources and to establish good practices for sharing with the pre-school sector.

The key features of the MOE Kindergarten curriculum are its distinct Singapore flavour, and its two flagship programmes - the Starlight Literacy Programme and the HI-Light Programme. The curriculum features a distinct Singapore flavour which allows children to learn in an authentic context. The Starlight Literacy Programme aims to nurture early childhood bilingualism and is offered in both English and the three official Mother Tongue Languages (MTLs) . The HI-Light Programme supports the holistic development of children through integrated learning experiences.

Teachers use two core pedagogies to engage children in learning: first, purposeful play, where children participate in activities that are enjoyable and deliberately planned to achieve important learning outcomes. Second, quality interactions, where teachers use prompts and ask key questions to engage children in conversations to help them build on ideas and concepts.

For more information about the MOE Kindergartens, parents may wish to visit www.moekindergarten.edu.sg, or contact the individual kindergartens. For more information about the MOE Kindergartens commencing in 2016, parents may contact MOE at contact@moe.gov.sg or 6872 2220 (Mondays to Fridays: 8.00am to 6.00pm, Saturdays: 8.00am to 1.00pm).

Past PSLE Papers To Be Released in Examination Format: Providing Greater Clarity On The Overall Standard Of The PSLE

Ministry Of Education Feed - 06 February 2015

Since 1993, the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) has been releasing the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) questions by topics for Mathematics and Science, and by item types for the English Language and Mother Tongue Languages. This has supported teaching and learning in schools and helped familarise students with the types of questions in the PSLE.

Starting 2015, on an annual basis, SEAB will be releasing PSLE papers from the previous three years in examination format, for both the standard and foundation levels1, in all subjects. This enhancement aims to provide students and parents with greater clarity on the overall standard of the PSLE.

The PSLE is a checkpoint in a child’s learning journey, intended to help him take stock of his learning before entering the next phase of education. Hence, the PSLE is designed to test students’ mastery of knowledge and skills in the Singapore primary syllabuses. The examination papers are pitched appropriately and aligned to the primary syllabuses. As the examinations are designed for a wide range of students, there is a spread of questions that enables all students to demonstrate different levels of mastery.

Chief Executive of SEAB, Ms Tan Lay Choo, said, “With a clearer understanding of the overall standard of the PSLE, we hope parents will be better informed in supporting their child for the PSLE, while bearing in mind the importance of giving their child time and space to pursue other meaningful activities and personal interests.”

For 2015, the release will include PSLE papers from 2012 to 2014. It will be published by appointed publishers and made available at major bookstores from 7 February 2015, Saturday.

Footnote
  1. Each year, our primary 5 students will be offered a mix of Standard or Foundation subjects depending on their aptitude in each subject, as demonstrated by their performance in the primary 4 school-based examinations.

Report Cites Need for N.Y. College Support After Foster Care - Education Week

Data show one-quarter of New York youths aging out of foster care will be homeless within four years and half will be unemployed at age 24.

Speech by Ms Sim Ann at the SMU-SPD Conference on "Education For Inclusive Workspaces"

Ministry Of Education Feed - 03 February 2015

Thank you for inviting me back to this very meaningful conference organised by the SMU and SPD. This is an excellent platform for students, educators, employers and professionals working with persons with disabilities, to come together to explore how we can all contribute towards an inclusive society that embraces individuals with special needs.

One important pillar of society is, of course, education. At the Minister of Education, we are committed to strengthening support for students with special education needs at every stage of their learning journey - in our mainstream schools, special education schools, and institutions of higher learning - to provide them more opportunities to realise their full potential.

Last year the MOE announced greater support for students with special needs in the Higher Education sector. Every publicly-funded university, polytechnic and ITE College set up a Disability Support Office, or DSO. The DSOs provide holistic support for students with special educational needs, such as making access arrangements and coordinating staff training on special needs support in the classroom. We also introduced the Special Education Needs Fund for eligible tertiary students with physical and sensory impairments to purchase assistive technology devices and support services that enable them to learn better in class.

However, the support and accommodation extended to students with disabilities cannot stop at the institutions of higher learning. The transition from school to the workforce is an important phase in life, and perhaps one of the most daunting for anyone. Our students and graduates with disabilities need strong support when they progress to the workplace - support from employers; support from their colleagues; support from their former schools; and also support from society as a whole. In this regard, I am heartened by the close collaboration between SMU and SPD to help graduating students with SEN find their footing as they enter the workforce. For instance, officers in the DSO provide career guidance to these students, and SPD complements those efforts through job coaching and support when students graduate and move into a working environment.

Another positive outcome of the partnership between SMU and SPD is today’s conference, “Education for Inclusive Workspaces”. SMU and SPD have invited a diverse range of panel speakers, ranging from a specialist in higher education and disabilities; an educator who did not let his disability stop him from building his career; a recent graduate who now champions disability awareness at the workplace; and the CEO of a company that prioritises diversity and inclusiveness. These speakers bring a wide range of expertise and experience in supporting students with special education needs’ transition into employment, and I am sure we will all be enriched by their sharing.

As we strive towards being a more caring, more compassionate and more inclusive society, I look forward to see more of such collaboration among Government agencies, educational institutions, employers and voluntary welfare organisations, to make learning and employment more accessible to all.

I would like to once again congratulate and thank SMU and SPD for putting this conference together, and I hope that this collaboration will inspire many others.

I wish you all a fruitful conference this afternoon. Thank you.

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