Madam, I thank many MPs for your thoughtful and wide-ranging comments.Recollecting the Pioneering Spirit
This year, we celebrate our nation’s golden jubilee.
We celebrate how education has enabled generations of Singaporeans to build a better life, and enabled us to build a nation.
We thank our pioneer educators, and their parents. Looking back, in 1965, education meant读书 or ‘study book’. Our pioneers had a sense of where they wanted to be in the future, where they were, and worked hard to bridge that gap. The big gap then was basic literacy and numeracy skills - so ‘study book’ made sense as they learnt the 3 “Rs” - or reading, writing, ‘rithmetic’.
Many became literate and numerate. We then built on this education system, year by year. At critical points, we made important choices to adapt and change. Educators, parents, students responded with spirit, and each wave allowed us to make further progress with purpose.
With these changes, we built a good education system, developed our people and grew our economy. But there were also inadvertent negatives. In our minds, ‘study book’ became increasingly about examinations, grades and qualifications.
A strength - in focusing on academic grades - can be over-done and become a weakness, as we leave little time to develop other attributes that are necessary for success and fulfilment.
Students tell me of the stress they faced because of the high expectations placed on them. The chase for better grades fuelled a tuition industry. It created a vertical stacking of qualifications, as well as the tiering of schools in the minds of parents, based mainly on academic results - a hierarchy of grades.
We are not unique in this. The same ‘study book’ culture that enabled the three other East Asian dragons - South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan - to make great strides is also generating the same, if not even greater pressures, in their societies.Pioneers for the Future
Like our pioneers before us, we have to ask anew: where do we want to be in the future, where are we today, and how do we make the leap?
At Our Singapore Conversation two years back, many Singaporeans expressed their aspiration for a cohesive home full of spirit and trust. A home where we all have opportunities to pursue our dreams. A home where we all have the assurance that we will each be taken care of, when we face difficulties, and where we live out lives of purpose.
So it is not just what we do. It is who we are as a people.
But many also recognised that the future will be more uncertain, volatile, as the global economy and political order changes in unpredictable ways. Political and religious developments elsewhere can strengthen or weaken our social cohesion.
An ageing population will create challenges that we cannot totally foresee. A younger generation that is digitally connected can either be more united, or more divided.
The nature of jobs will also change. For a start, many existing jobs will disappear. Smart machines and lower cost workers elsewhere will take these jobs. So we have to change jobs, maybe several times over our lifetime. But jobs that need uniquely human qualities cannot be displaced by machines, and will become more valuable.
Even the same job will look different. So traits like creativity, inventiveness, adaptability, socio-emotional skills, and cultural and global awareness will give Singaporeans an edge. New, interesting and diverse jobs will be created. Some of us will be self-employed. Some of us will create jobs for others as entrepreneurs. And if our economy grows well, more jobs will be created.
All these present new and multiple pathways to success.Crossroads
Faced with such challenges and opportunities, we are at a crossroads. We have two options.
We could continue with the ‘study book’ path, with a narrow focus on grades and examinations, and descend into a spiralling paper chase and expanding tuition industry, as many of you have warned.
Employers choose not to invest in employees, relying wholly on academic qualifications to determine who gets the job.
Educators drill and test, and see their duty as helping students to obtain the best possible exam grades.
Parents obsess over grades and spend ever-increasing amounts of resources to give their child an edge over other children.
Students chase the next point, and spend most of their time going for more tuition and enrichment in very narrow areas.
Stress levels in society climb, and the system churns out students who excel in examinations, but are ill-equipped to take on jobs of the future, nor find fulfilment in what they do. And unemployment or under-employment becomes pervasive. Everyone is worse off.
This is a grim road, but sadly, one which other societies have already trodden down.
Mr Lim Biow Chuan in his opening speech raised vivid examples of what is happening elsewhere. Ms Denise Phua warned us if we do not change, the currents beneath the ocean will cause us to drift and drift us in the wrong direction. This is one possible outcome.
We can have another outcome. We can act with boldness and resolve to take another path forward, to embark on a major transformation. We will need collective will and action by employers, teachers, parents and students, and society at large:
Where employers who look beyond academic qualifications in hiring or promoting the best person for the job. Bosses who support employees in skills upgrading.
Where educators who focus on holistic education, building a strong foundation of values and the capacity to learn.
Where our IHLs play a leading role, strengthening the nexus between learning and work, and learning for life
Where parents recognise every child’s unique strengths, and do their part to build their children’s character.
Where students flourish through a range of academic and co-curricular activities, and take different pathways to success and grow up to be well-rounded.
Where the economy stays resilient and flexible, with high levels of employment, and many opportunities. High skills, high productivity, high wages.
And where our society and our people continue to be caring, harmonious, gracious and cohesive. And we do not see education as a race amongst our children.
This is a path that no society has charted out fully yet - and I have been looking at education systems around the world. Charting this new territory will require us to once again be pioneers.
Here in Singapore, building on the many changes in our education system in the past, we have continued to make further changes and to make further moves in this direction.
As Ms Denise Phua reminded us, we have focused on values and character, strengthened holistic education, removed school rankings, and enhanced support for weaker and special needs students.
We developed new ways of learning in our schools, made every school a good school, expanded applied pathways in tertiary education, and in this Budget, outlined a series of SkillsFuture initiatives that built on ASPIRE’s recommendations.
All these changes have laid the groundwork for a transformation to create a better future for Singapore. A future anchored by deep skills and strong values.
But this future will belong to us only if we, as a people, shift our mindsets about education. This is not about ‘study book’ or 读书. It is about learning in every domain, anytime, anywhere for a purposeful, meaningful, fulfilling life.
In other words, we need to live the pioneering spirit
- Beyond learning for grades, to learning for mastery
- Beyond learning in school, to learning throughout life
- Beyond learning for work, to learning for life.
Mr Yee Jenn Jong mentioned about an Integrated School. Ms Denise Phua made good suggestions on changes in the school system, including the Integrated School. Ms Denise Phua even raised an Adjournment Motion on this a few months back. I would say, let us go beyond what we do in schools. Let us go much further, so that it is not just about what Mr Png Eng Huat mentioned about tuition. It is about a more fundamental change. Allow me to touch on these fundamental changes.
The first major shift is to go beyond learning for grades, to learning for mastery.What is Learning for Mastery?
How do we develop mastery in our fields? We do not have all the answers. But let me share a story.
When I was in the Police Academy more than 30 years ago, one of my pioneer instructors was Mr John Chang. He did not have high academic qualifications, but he was, in my mind, one of the best instructors - he knew the law, he knew how to deal with tense situations, he knew how to teach. He explained to me that after handling every case, he would reflect on how he could have done better. He would imagine in his mind scenarios - how should he have reacted if the criminals he was dealing with had been more violent, if they were armed with firearms, or victims less cooperative, and so on. He studied on his own, he attended classes, he asked his peers and he asked seniors at work. Everybody whom he could get to, he would ask. John was one of the few police officers who started as a constable, got many promotions, went all the way, and retired an assistant superintendent - quite a feat in those days.
I learnt a lot from John as a very young officer, about what it means to be an effective learner, and how one achieves mastery:
he was self-directed - no one told him how to learn, but he did so on his own;
he was reflective - he thought through his own experiences and learnt from both mistakes and successes;
he learnt in bite-sized modules, picking up what he needed, when he needed;
he kept an open mind - and learnt from everyone, everywhere, at any time;
he was disciplined - learning was not left to chance, but built into his every day routine;
And he was passionate - he cared deeply about what he does.
All these before we spoke about SkillsFuture. Now in my job in education, I am lucky to meet many who, like John, devote themselves to mastery, and in many different fields.
Let me quote just one example - Associate Professor Chong Yap Seng, a Senior Consultant at NUH. A doctor by training, Professor Chong is leading a nationwide birth cohort study on how mothers’ diet and lifestyle during pregnancy affect their babies’ growth after birth. It is a study with great national impact - to prevent and manage diseases like diabetes and obesity. Someone like him, steeped in knowledge of his field, does not shy away from applying his knowledge and skills innovatively to push new frontiers. To explore the unknown. To invent new things.What MOE can Do: Laying the Foundation for Mastery
We should aim to be a nation where Singaporeans develop mastery in every field, Singaporeans who are resourceful, inventive and break new grounds. This will take collective effort across our schools, Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and industry.
So let me outline my Ministry’s contribution to this. In 10 years of basic education, we aim to:
First, equip every student with a strong foundation in literacy, numeracy and the thinking skills, whatever their starting point. Mr Hri Kumar mentioned about the importance of expressing our ideas well, and being confident. I fully agree with him and thank him for these useful suggestions. And indeed we are starting very early now in preschool and in our primary schools, through our new reading and oracy programmes. This foundation is vital as it enables them to keep learning and progressing. Rigour will be maintained, through appropriate assessments as checkpoints to help them track progress, and make good decisions on the best pathway to continue learning. And where necessary, students can access levelling up programmes to build their basics.
Second, we will give every student broad exposure to a whole range of subjects and CCAs to pique their interest in various fields, in sports, arts, outdoor adventures and so on. I share Dr Benedict Tan’s enthusiasm for outdoor and adventure learning. I also thank Ms Rita Soh on her suggestions on art education, and how we can continue to improve it.
Third, continue to improve on our teaching, to stimulate curiosity and let every student put knowledge into action. This includes using ICT to teach - as Ms Denise Phua had highlighted. In fact, I am happy to share that we are already developing our Student Learning Space, and hopefully, we will have high quality content, and many high quality ways of using these.
Fourth, build in every student deep wells of character. It matters in life, and it matters in achieving mastery, because mastery takes effort and perseverance in careers and sectors.
An important aspect of learning for mastery is to match our students’ strengths and interests to opportunities in our schools and IHLs, in careers and enterprises. Mr Yee Jenn Jong mentioned about the GEP, but I would like to go further. I would like to stimulate the curiosity of learning and provide plenty of opportunities to do so in ways that are meaningful for all of our students, in all our schools.
A recent innovation in our schools is the Applied Learning Programmes or ALPs in almost all our secondary schools - this is part of our “Every School A Good School” movement. In fun and creative ways, our students apply various domains of knowledge to solve complex, real life problems in their field of interest.
Let me share two examples. First, Hillgrove Secondary. Hillgrove Secondary has an ALP on Flight and Aerospace. Students learn fundamental Aerospace theories, and apply Math, Science, Design & Technology by building and flying their own model planes. Students go on to take Advance Elective Modules in Aerospace, and learn how planes defy gravity while flying a flight simulator! Rayner Lee really enjoyed learning at Hillgrove, and in fact, he is now doing Aerospace Technology at Nanyang Polytechnic and says, “I chose Hillgrove because of the Youth Flying Club CCA. I wanted to be a pilot. My parents and school teachers encouraged me to take the Private Pilot Licence (PPL). Now that I have my licence, I hope to join the RSAF as a pilot.” Well, I hope Rayner flies high.
Another example is Damai Secondary’s ALP on Health Science and Technology. Students apply concepts from Chemistry and Biology to construct biomedical devices. They built salinity sensors that can analyse urine samples to determine the health of a person. Damai students also develop a sense of empathy when thinking about their users. Through tie-ups with IHLs and the community, students are inspired by the possibilities of careers in the Healthcare and Medical Technology sectors. As Mdm Fiona Han, a mother of 3 sons in Damai puts it, “This is a great experience that allows them to broaden their future career choices.”Mastery in whichever field
Different ALPs open up different possibilities for students to put knowledge into action and bring learning to life. Learning becomes relevant and engaging for every student, in every school.
We are not channelling students to specialise early. In fact, deep skills acquired in one field can be transferred to another.
For example, Ngee Ann Polytechnic uses the technical know-how in building Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs to build Unmanned Underwater Vehicles or UUVs to clean ship hulls - so transferring skills from air to sea. A team in ITE working with Singapore Zoo applied Medical Technology to design an incubator, and succeeded in increasing the hatching rate of reptile eggs from 25 percent to 75 percent! So if you see many more crocodiles in the zoo, you know why. It is quite productive.
We are fortunate that our vibrant economy has created a range of good jobs. With more choices, we need good Education and Career Guidance (ECG). There are many domains and fields that students could explore and develop deep skills in - whether it is design, business, arts, music, or sports. By exposing students to possibilities, we empower them to make better choices, and choose suitable pathways.
We will hence strengthen ECG at all levels. ECG curriculum in schools, ITE and polytechnics will be enhanced, and by 2017, we will have a professional core of ECG counsellors and an online ECG portal that shows many exciting opportunities - enriched by our SkillsFuture initiatives. Ms Rita Soh spoke earlier about how we should integrate the arts and sciences and how we should integrate the learning of head, heart and hands.
In fact, many meaningful and exciting things are also happening in our IHLs too. If you had to build an exciting platform which the Prime Minister will stand on for a Chinese New Year celebration, how would you go about it?
Well, SUTD students put to work their knowledge of engineering, design, arts, and cultural awareness to create this year’s Chinese New Year light-up display in Chinatown. They designed a total of 338 goat lanterns, including 28 motorised ones. Three special goats, each weighing about 400 kg, were perched on a mountain to form the 10m tall centerpiece. So you can see, lots of auspicious numbers for the weekend. It wasn’t only a wonderful sight to behold - it vividly brought in the Year of the Goat, and we all know PM was very pleased to grace the platform - as you can see in PM’s wefie with the team.
Now, this is the fourth year SUTD students have helped to design the display for CNY, and each time, with each new animal of the horoscope, they learnt from the previous year, pushed themselves to think differently, and put all their skills and knowledge into a new masterpiece.
They put their head, heart and hands in creating this. And indeed, our ITE motto is, Hands-on, Minds-on, Hearts-on, so it is not just in universities, but across our entire education system. Be it ITE or SUTD, this approach is important. And indeed, this is what it means to go beyond learning for grades, to learning for mastery.Beyond learning in school, to learning throughout life
The second major shift that we need to do as a people is to go beyond learning in school, to learning throughout life.
Now let me share with you another story. I was at Seletar Aerospace Park recently. Fifty years ago, Seletar was better known for the smell of pig farms. And 50 years on, I visited Seletar to witness the delivery of our first Rolls-Royce TRENT 1000 jet engine - made-in-Singapore for a Singapore company Scoot. A world of difference! I met 3 Singaporeans working there - Ravinder, Cheria and Siti Mariani.
Ravinder is a Team Leader with 24 years of Aerospace experience. You would have thought that he knows everything, but he told me, “To me, every day is a learning process”. And this gentleman was serious when he said that! Now it turns out that his son was also interested in Aerospace Engineering, and he thought hey, he had better return to school to pick up new skills, so that he can mentor his son, and pass on his skills to the next generation. So he enrolled in Temasek Polytechnic’s Diploma in Aerospace Engineering and is now 6 months into his course! Now all that, whilst still working hard at Rolls-Royce mentoring his two younger colleagues, like Cheria and Siti.
Cheria is technically Ravinder’s “school-mate” in TP, as she is also pursuing a Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. But she is one-third his age. As an intern, she is learning at the workplace, even as Ravinder is learning in TP.
Siti, an ITE student in Aerospace Technology, was also part of the team. And whilst working at a bookshop at Changi Airport, she saw the aeroplanes taking off and it piqued her interest. She started to wonder how planes fly. Today, she is a Rolls-Royce ITE scholar, thrilled to be building an impressive and complex engine with some 30,000 parts! And learning all that as an intern! You see, it is not just about learning technical skills - she said, “Rolls-Royce taught me to be versatile and assertive in order to keep up with changes in the aerospace industry.” Ravinder, Cheria and Siti are at different stages of life but all actively learning to be better, to succeed both at work, and in life.
But I empathise with many Singaporeans who tell me: “Once we start work or have family commitments, it is hard to set aside time to learn.” Indeed, we have to address the practical constraints to empower lifelong learning.What MOE can Do: Our IHLs Playing a Leading Role
Our IHLs will play a leading role in empowering Singaporeans to learn everywhere, throughout life. Our IHLs will work with companies that are keen to make workplaces great places for learning. We will have more enhanced internship opportunities so that young people like Siti and Cheria can learn and solve real life problems, and acquire soft skills.
I thank Mr Yee Jenn Jong and Ms Lee Li Lian for your suggestions on internships and how we can engage the different players. Our IHLs will create SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programmes, so that Siti and Cheria can be mentored on-the-job and acquire skills when they graduate. Students who take up Earn and Learn are effectively enjoying one year (or more) of highly subsidised education. But instead of learning just in our IHLs, they enjoy a blend of facilitated learning in our IHL, and structured mentoring at work. They acquire a higher industry-recognised qualification through this.
We will also put in place Skills-based Modular Courses. By the end of the year, there will be over 300 modular courses offered by our polytechnics and universities. These will be in specialist areas, such as Digital Forensics and Investigation (SP), Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (NTU), Functional Genomics (UniSIM), and Coaching and Counselling Skills (RP). As you can see, a very wide range!
We will subsidise part-time, Specialist, and Advanced Diplomas for all Singaporeans more generously even if this is not the first time you are getting one, and provide the even more generous SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidies for Singaporeans aged 40 and above. I agree with Ms Lina Chiam that we must encourage everyone to learn, including the elderly.
Our IHLs will play a leading role in specific sectors. For a start, we will appoint Sector Coordinators for 17 strategic sectors - these are sectors identified as future growth sectors, or meeting critical needs in our society. Besides engineering and manufacturing sectors, we will also have early childhood education, which SMS Indranee will speak more about later, as well as healthcare and many others. Let me explain how this would work:
Republic Polytechnic, for instance, is the Sector Coordinator for Logistics. They will ensure a tighter nexus between learning in school and learning at work in the logistics sector. I want to commend the RP staff who were very enterprising in engaging industry players and galvanising 12 companies, including top players like DHL Express, YCH Group, Yang Kee Logistics, to come together to design a 12-month Earn and Learn programme.
These companies will use RP’s workplace training blueprints, so that learning at work and learning at RP are integrated, for maximum impact. Students who complete the programme will acquire skills that are in RP’s Specialist Diploma in Supply Chain Management, but they will do so on-the-job, be recognised for it, and get paid in the process, without having to pay fees! They will learn how to deal with complexity and scale in global goods flow, data analytics, manage supply chains and inventories, devise plans to optimise transportation. As you can see, all are very high skills areas. They will learn problem-solving, people skills, and a range of soft skills. When they show that they have acquired and can apply the new skills, they will take on greater responsibilities and see a wage increase.
Mr Zainuddin Nordin raised the issue of how we ensure skills that are learnt, are recognised and rewarded - this is how, and I hope many more players will come on board.
RP will provide specialised training for mentors, to help companies build a network of industry mentors, skilled like Ravinder. This will multiply our effectiveness, and spread expertise in the sector.
We will study different models of learning on-the-job, explore greater use of online learning, and look at innovative approaches.
This is how we will help all Singaporeans to go beyond learning in school, to learning throughout life.Some Observations about Learning
As we resolve to learn for mastery and learn throughout life, we need to rethink a few issues about learning, and the significance of the changes.
Let me share some observations.Using Skills Matters Most
The OECD did a recent survey of adult skills. Workers in Japan ranked highly in their skills, but ranked badly in terms of how well these skills are utilised on the job. At the opposite end, workers in the US ranked poorly in skills, but ranked among the top in using skills on the job - so whatever skills they have, they use them to the fullest!
Now much of our Budget Debate focused on the quality control of courses and whether workers get to attend. Now these courses to learn skills matter. But this OECD study paints a very vivid story that what matters even more is whether workers use the skills learnt.
We must not end up using SkillsFuture Credit to chase another form of qualification. Or debate which courses can acquire qualifications. Training courses are just the means. Our focus must be on the ends - acquiring, mastering and using deep skills. If workers or companies attend courses to meet quotas, or because of incentives for it, very little will be achieved from attending the courses. But if companies make the best use of the higher skills of workers, it leads to higher productivity, higher margins; in turn, they can pay higher wages. Higher skills, higher wages, higher productivity. This is the virtuous circle that we must seek to achieve.
To achieve this virtuous circle, companies play a critical role. So I am glad, that Mr Robert Yap, Chairman and CEO of YCH Group, and also Chairman of Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), has been very supportive of his company’s collaboration with RP. I hope many more employers will take action to develop and use their employees’ skills, as part of their productivity and innovation strategy.
And I thank Mr Thomas Chua for calling on industry associations and SMEs to work closely with MOE. We are ready to work with them.Own Unique Skills Map
Another observation relates to how we direct our own learning - or self-directed learning. With SkillsFuture, various specialist and advanced diplomas, and specialised, bite-sized modular courses are even more highly subsidised. And in fact, there is an even wider range of courses available. Opportunities for learning will be across IHLs - graduates of polytechnic, ITE or university can take relevant modules, or in WDA-certified courses, or at the workplace.
With this array of courses, especially modular courses, the system is even more open and flexible. So besides the multiple pathways in our IHLs, you can now create your own learning pathways - build a portfolio of skills, just-in-time, tailored to your own needs, at your own pace. You can stack modules towards a qualification, or just choose relevant modules. It empowers each of us to take charge, direct our own learning, and build our own unique skills map. It empowers each of us to then make the best use of the initiatives, including the SkillsFuture Credit and other learning opportunities.
Mr Ang Wei Neng highlighted the plight of middle-age workers and this is why we have even greater subsidises for those aged above 40. But this self-directed, independent learning must start young. Our teachers must not spoon feed our students and give them model answers. In life, there are no model answers.
I once had a parent who wrote to me to argue for an extra mark for her child’s term test in school. Rather than seek an extra mark in tests, let us nurture our children to make their mark on society. We have to encourage our children to be independent, self-directed learners, skilful at figuring out their own way. Prof Tan Tai Yong made an important point that we must not over-protect our children, so that they can develop adaptive resilience and learn to deal with uncertainties in life.
If we intervene when a child does not get an extra mark, how do we develop resilience? Mr Lim Biow Chuan mentioned about the over-reliance on others to learn and how it can develop a crutch mentality. And Mr Inderjit Singh made the same point and emphasised the importance of self-directed learning. Mr Singh also made suggestions on how we can create more diversity in our schools’ profile, which we will study.
So let us start early in our schools and make our children self-directed, independent learners. Let us all take a collective pause and see whether the way that we are bringing up our children in school, at home, is helping them to develop that independence, that self-directed learning, the resourcefulness and initiative, or whether we are spoon-feeding them and that they are going to lose that ability when the crutch is taken away, that they cannot go out and create, invent and build new things.Learning as a Habit of Mind
My next observation on learning for mastery relates to learning as a habit of mind. Structured courses are very useful, and that is why IHLs are embarking on that, and WDA is also doing a lot more. But no matter how many programmes we have under SkillsFuture, we cannot cover every learning possibility. It is not possible.
Why? Because learning can take place in formal and informal modes, in the classroom or the workplace, online learning, through self-reflection, with friends or in groups.
Lifelong learning is a habit of mind, rather than a mere act of attending courses. So it is important that even as we debate about SkillsFuture accreditation and quality of courses and so on, we must not forget it is not about attending courses per se. We need to seize learning opportunities everywhere, from anyone, throughout life, and even on our own, like the way Mr John Chang did at the Police Academy many years ago.Learning as exploring and inventing
Finally, learning for mastery is not just about learning what is known. A lot of our learning is about learning how others have done it, how we can learn basics from them. But it is also about exploring the unknown, and inventing new things by putting all of our knowledge to creative use - like what Prof Chong is doing to help parents have healthier babies. So let us nurture many more who seek mastery relentlessly in their field, who are inventive and resourceful, and who can make breakthroughs for Singapore.
I have made several observations about learning for mastery and learning throughout life, and that it is not just about learning what is known; it is not just about attending courses; it is not just about relying on others but rather to be self-directed, independent learners.Beyond Learning for Work, to Learning for Life
The third major shift is to go beyond learning for work, to learning for life.
Developing deep skills to succeed at work is important. But life is more than just work. Developing a lively interest in the world around us, in nature and culture, in sports and adventure, in having zest for life and a concern for others are what makes life purposeful and fulfilling. Earlier on, Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, Dr Benedict Tan and Ms Rita Soh all touched on this.
So let me share another inspiring story, this time, on Edward Chia. Edward is a 31-year-old entrepreneur who started his own business when he was 18 years old. His Timbre group of restaurants is well-known for good dining and live music. Timbre restaurants have a social mission. Combining food with music, his restaurants champion Singaporean musicians and give them a platform. His staff would applaud the performing bands and urge his diners to do the same. And as Edward shares, “Everything we do still counts back toward our social mission of supporting Singapore’s music scene. At a very simple level, I had an idea I wanted to do, that idea was good for society, and I just wanted to get it done.” He gained respect from his team, many of whom were older, by getting his hands dirty and doing everything he asked of his staff. He washed toilets, cleaned the office, ran the bar, and helped out in the kitchen. So I agree with Mr Baey Yam Keng that our children should learn all these skills - see how important it is in life! Edward acknowledges that those early years were not easy, but through working with his team, he also learnt from them.
Today, he pays that learning forward. His ventures provide a platform for budding chefs, and he recently partnered Singapore start-up Infinium Robotics to develop drones that can navigate their way around tables to serve food. So if this sounds like a scene from Star Wars to serve food, it is not. Well, it is still an experiment, but an exciting one! What it means is that waiters can work more effectively, and do things that machines cannot do. Edward, for me, embodies the spirit of learning for life, in that he is passionate and innovative in his field. He gives back to the community, and creates new opportunities for others. He has a deep interest in music and he wants to give Singaporean talent a platform. So he runs enterprises with a mission. From musicians, now he is going on to helping budding chefs. So I hope that we will have a more lively scene in the future.
I spoke to many Singaporeans during Our Singapore Conversation. Many shared their aspirations to live a life of purpose and spirit. They wanted to build a successful and cohesive society. A society where Singaporeans lead fulfilling lives, each in his own way.
Many have also expressed support for our student-centric, values-driven education. They believe we can develop each individual fully, and develop our sense of community, and our sense of personal and collective responsibility.Holistic Education
So I am glad that our students experience the arts, music, sports, outdoor activities and overseas trips. And I must add that there are no other school systems, or at least none I know of, that sends one-third of its students on overseas trips to gain overseas exposure - there is much we should be thankful for. They interact with peers around the world. And by the way, these are not just students in our top schools. These are students in every school. They lead and participate in a wide range of CCAs.
These experiences broaden their worldview, and grow them as rugged individuals, physically active and healthy, appreciative of the finer things in life. Like Edward Chia, we hope that they also develop a strong sense of purpose and a desire to help each other and give back to society.LLP/CCE/VIA
Ms Irene Ng earlier spoke about Edusave Character Awards. Let me emphasise that, for me, it is a very important signalling of a shift in our education in that we must place emphasis on values and character. It is a catalyst for change.
But for the same reason, we should not overdo it, and that is why the numbers are kept very small. But we will study her suggestion on how we can make it more meaningful. And I am glad many parents and students have supported this. The real change is in our schools’ programmes - the character and citizenship education that has been revamped, and more recently, in our Learning for Life programmes that reinforce these lifeskills.
In East View Secondary School, students work with community partners on food donation drives, and reach out to promote health and IT skills to the neighbourhood residents. One student said, “The joy on people’s faces has driven me to do more.” Over at Mayflower Secondary School, a project called ‘Spirit of Generosity’ has students doing 50,000 acts of kindness to friends, family and the community to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday. So this has brought the school and its surrounding community together through the spirit of giving. And teachers and students alike love how this has made the school a more caring community - indeed, in giving, we receive as much, if not more.SG50 Giving
All across our schools, when students put values into action, character and citizenship education comes alive. These efforts are all very commendable. We want to encourage our students in our schools, Polytechnics and ITE to do more. So SG50 giving will provide funds to enable students to support meaningful causes in the community. I thank Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin for her suggestions on how these programmes can work or partner with VWOs to make it more impactful. Students will identify Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) that they would like to work with and donate the funds to them, and they will then partner these IPCs to make a real difference, however small in their community.
Holistic education covers moral, cognitive, physical, social and aesthetic dimensions. So I hope our students grow up to appreciate and contribute to the rich, multi-dimensional aspects of life, and grow richer in spirit and purpose. This is how we build a vibrant, creative and caring society. This is what it means to go beyond learning for work, to learning for life for a rich, purposeful, and meaningful life.
Madam, allow me to say a few words in Mandarin to summarise what I have just said.
教育的最终目标并不单单只是为了读书识字，考取好成绩，追求一纸文凭 —— 更重要的还是要学会待人处事。
教育的涵义更深更广， 在于育人 —— 包含了 德智体群美。
随着经济和社会的蓬勃发展，我们必须与时并进，灵活应对，不断地提升自我，追求精专技能，活到老学到老 —— 终身学习、终身受用。
The three shifts that I have outlined - Learning for mastery, Learning throughout life, Learning for life - are important for every Singaporean. We want every Singaporean to have access to learning, to have learning opportunities, whatever their starting point - just as Mr Zainuddin Noordin earlier spoke about the importance of social mobility.Student Care Centres
Many parents told me that they appreciate the structured, supportive environment that Student Care Centres (SCCs) provide for students after school and in fact, this is the reason, why I have been expanding SCCs over the years. A point that Ms Lee Li Lian and Mr Ang Wei Neng also mentioned. So I appreciate that this is well-received. MOE will continue to work with MSF to improve quality and accessibility.
We have 100 school-based student care centres at the beginning of this year. I am happy to announce that we will set up another 20 school-based centres this year, and another 20 next year. I would also like to thank Dr Intan for her suggestions on how we might overcome the constraints of high quality manpower by getting older students to help out. Our main constraint is really the quality and number of staff.Levelling-up Programmes
We help students who need additional support to build a good foundation in literacy and numeracy through a comprehensive suite of levelling up programmes, from the kindergarten level through to the secondary schools. Educators with specialised training work in small groups with these students, to motivate and teach them better.
And the results have been very heartening. Let me share just two stories:
Siti, a P6 student in Qihua Primary School last year, has dyslexia and was frequently absent from school. But her teachers, allied educators and counsellors all pitched in with such determined and tireless wrap-around support that she went from skipping school, to discovering new interest in Math, and eventually emerging as Qihua’s top scorer in Foundation subjects! Inspired by her teachers, she now aspires to be a teacher, so that she can do for others what her teachers did for her.
Joshua could barely speak a word of English when he entered Da Qiao Primary at P1. In one year, Joshua has graduated from the Learning Support Programme and gained confidence. Joshua’s mother, Mrs Lim, worked with the school and used word cards the school prepared to practise together with Joshua at home.Whole-school Approach
Specialised programmes in schools like Crest, Spectra, NorthLight, and Assumption Pathway keep students engaged and help them build confidence.
Hairi picked up smoking, drinking and even joined a gang when he was a primary school student. He disliked school but loved football. His teachers at Crest Secondary recognised that and engaged him through football. And in Hairi’s words, it was a “game-changer”. So Hairi started to enjoy school and blossomed as a peer leader. He quit smoking. Hairi’s parents, having seen his change, have also enrolled his brother Hilmi in Crest.Support for Special Needs
For students in Special Education (SPED) Schools, we have invested, as DPM Tharman mentioned, 50 per cent more in real terms to support them over the past five years.
Our School-based Dyslexia Remediation (SDR) programme has been a success. Dr Intan mentioned about the AEDs earlier. As MOS Sim Ann shared earlier, we expanded the programme to 60 more primary schools this year. So two-thirds of our primary schools now offer it, up from one-third just last year.
By next year, 2016, all primary schools will have dyslexia remediation, so that students with dyslexia will get help early in their primary school. MOS Sim Ann will touch on other efforts to support students across the spectrum of SEN later.Financial Support
Let me touch on Financial Support. Education is already heavily subsidised, but we will provide further support.
Let me reiterate that this is not because more students are poor, but because the Government is providing greater support.
I will summarise some of the announcements made by DPM Tharman, and provide additional details.
We will top up Edusave accounts or post-secondary education accounts of Singapore Citizen students aged 7 to 20 - reaching more than half a million Singaporeans.
We will waive fees for PSLE, GCE ‘N’, ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels examinations for Singapore Citizen students in Government-funded schools starting this year.
We will waive vocational examinations fees for Singapore Citizen students in Government-funded SPED schools and specialised schools - including ITE Skills Certificate, and WSQ modules.
We will provide subsidies comparable to the current ‘A’ level fees for Singapore Citizen students in Government-funded schools who sit the International Baccalaureate Diploma examination.
And we will waive examination fees for Singapore Citizen students enrolled full-time in ITE and Polytechnics, starting from Academic Year 2015.
Our focus on national, mainstream schools is important because it provides an important bonding experience. And while private schools are relevant, where private schools are concerned, the specific relevant agencies will deal with it.
The MOE Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) has been enhanced over the years. In 2012, we raised the income ceiling and also introduced a per capita income criterion to allow more students to benefit. From 1 April this year, we will provide transport subsidies under MOE’s FAS. This will provide further support for lower income families.
Those travelling by public transport will receive $120 in transport credits annually.
For primary school students taking school bus, MOE’s FAS will cover 50 per cent of the regular school bus fare.
In addition, we will double the sum of annual grants for school-based financial assistance from $5m to $11m per year for the next three years. So this will give schools more resources to provide further targeted assistance to students from less advantaged backgrounds. We will also raise the income criteria of Edusave Merit Bursary from $5,000 to $6,000, to benefit more students.
No child should be left behind whatever their starting point. We are doing more to support students with a weaker start, be it in learning needs, special needs, or financial needs. Spending in these areas, across all levels - from schools to IHLs has more than doubled from $200m to $500m, as compared to five years ago.
But to uplift our students, not just academically but also in social-emotional growth, we need both resources and “heartware”. I echo Mr Sam Tan’s point that we must focus on “heartware”. “Heartware” comes from supportive parents, persevering students, dedicated educators and supportive community. SPS Hawazi will speak more about how we will engage parents and the community in bringing out the best in our children, including character building.
I very much appreciate the many educators and volunteers who work doggedly in our schools, self-help groups and other VWOs. They put in much time and heart into doing this important work, quietly, unstintingly. I have the greatest admiration for them.
I find it most encouraging that students who received help are giving back, at this very young age. For example, Jia Qi from Teck Whye Secondary was supported by FAS - he discovered and developed his passion in Math through Teck Whye’s Math enrichment programmes and personal motivation workshops. Jia Qi gives back enthusiastically by coaching his friends in Math through the school’s Peer Tutoring programme, and derives great satisfaction from his friends’ improvement. Umaira was supported by the Independent School Bursary to attend Raffles Girls’ School. Grateful for the opportunity, she now wants to spread the message that students of diverse backgrounds are welcomed in RGS through a Malay language and culture competition for primary schools this year.
We must not shy away from excellence, but we must make sure that those who are excellent in whatever they do, have a heart to give back to society.Conclusion: Pioneering for the Future
Let me now make some concluding remarks.
I began by speaking about how our Pioneer Generation made hard choices at critical points of nation-building. They faced many crossroads - each right decision helped us progress.
Today, we face a new crossroads - do we focus narrowly on grades and examinations, or do we focus on what is truly important by building strong values and deep skills throughout our lives? Do we fixate on narrow measurements of our value, or do we actually be people of value, with values?
Madam, to me, the path is clear. It is to do everything we can to be people of deep skills and strong values. We take the pioneering path, to nurture Singaporeans who are inventive, resilient and caring.
We have some idea of the qualities of this pioneering path. It will have learning on-the-job, learning-just-in-time, learning-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time. Learning without boundaries - without the boundaries of institutional walls, age, place or time.
I am happy to hear many MPs who speak in support of the spirit of this, because we must take this pioneering path together, as a whole society. We are not the only ones at a crossroads. Others, too, are asking - what is the future of education? I have been reading their projections, but as I read through what they wrote - I realise that much of what they envision in the future, we are doing now. And what is special about our mission is that we are not thinking about the future of education in just one school or one university. We are thinking about the future of education for our whole nation.
We are pioneering a path that will shape our whole society, one that will require collective effort from everyone in society. Millions of individual actions and choices by Singaporeans will move our nation towards a brighter future.
Our students in schools today are between 5 and 25 years old - in 50 years, they will be 55 to 75 years old. They will be the Pioneer Generation at SG100. Will we be stuck with ‘Study book’ culture that brought us this far in our first 50 years? Or will we, and this younger generation, live again the pioneering spirit and transform how we work and learn?
I am confident that we can succeed, as there are already many new pioneers in our midst. Each of the examples I raised in my speech are pioneers. But we need many more pioneers, in every school, in every field, in every job.
Singaporeans who take ownership of learning throughout life, like John, Prof Chong, Ravinder, Cheria and Siti - who are passionate and innovative, and make a difference to the lives of others, like Edward, Umaira and Jia Qi.
Teachers and schools who focus on holistic education, build in students a strong foundation and make learning real and relevant, like those in Hillgrove and Damai Secondary, SUTD, TP, ITE, RP and so on.
Parents who build on every child’s strengths and interests beyond academics, like Fiona and Ravinder.
Employers who truly value our people, and help our people acquire relevant skills, like YCH and Rolls-Royce.
A society that respects every job and encourages everyone to achieve mastery in their own fields, in their own way.
These are fundamental changes that will take time. But we need to take the first step now, and take it together.
The journey of transformation will not be easy. But every decision, every action, by everyone, counts.
Learn for mastery. Learn throughout life. Learn for life. This must be our compass as we chart our way forward.
Madam, in this SG50 year, let us appreciate and build on our pioneers’ precious legacy. Let us reflect on where we are today, and where we want to go.
Let us inspire all Singaporeans to take this pioneering path, and live the pioneering spirit, together, and create an even better 50 years ahead of us.
Madam Chairperson, Minister has given an overview of the future of education and what MOE is doing.
I will speak on two specific areas of MOE’s work: pre-school and tertiary education.Early Childhood Education
Ms Irene Ng and Mr Zainudin Nordin highlighted the importance of building the social and emotional resources of our young, and supporting low-income students.
Preparing our children for the future begins with giving our children a good start in life. Research shows that children who have a good early childhood education tend to do well later in life. A good educational foundation early in life is therefore extremely important.
We are doing this in two ways:
- First, by promoting consistency of standards in content and teaching across the sector;
- Secondly, through MOE Kindergartens (MKs).To date, we have 10 MKs, which provide quality pre-school education that is affordable to Singaporeans. Five more will open next year. The MKs aim to pilot teaching and learning resources, and establish good practices for sharing with the pre-school sector.
Giving every child a good start does not mean that the child in pre-school must be able to do the primary one syllabus while still in pre-school. There is still a pre-conception that a child is doing well only if the child is doing something beyond that child’s level. That should not be the case; at the pre-school stage the child should learn in a way that is appropriate to their age and stage of development.
What is important is:
- What they learn (content); and
- How they learn (pedagogy).
For content, MOE has developed the Nurturing Early Learners Curriculum, a tool kit of kindergarten curriculum resources. This contains guidelines for a holistic pre-school education, including learning areas such as numeracy, motor skills development, language and literacy, and social and emotional development.
In terms of how they learn, MOE has two core pedagogies: to engage children in learning through firstly, purposeful play, and secondly, quality interactions between teachers and children. The MKs of today are not the kindergartens that we remember. Children no longer learn through spelling lists and rote memory. Today, we encourage children to learn, explore, and ask questions about their world through play. The teachers plan learning activities that are fun and enjoyable for the children and help them achieve intended learning outcomes holistically.
Mr Hri Kumar talked about communication skills. We are helping our children to build a strong foundation, through bilingualism.
Research increasingly shows the importance of learning languages at a young age. Children who are exposed to two languages from young are more likely to be able to acquire both languages at a higher level of proficiency than their peers who start later. Researchers compared a group of children who learnt a second language earlier and used it longer, with another group who learnt a second language later. They found that the group of early bilinguals were more fluent and proficient than their peers. The early bilinguals also had greater self-regulation skills and ability to focus on a given task.
We have made bilingualism a key feature of our MKs, so that our children will be fluent in English and Mother Tongue, and will have a strong anchor on which to build their language capabilities as they grow older.
Our MKs have the Weeks of Wonder, or WoW - these are term projects that facilitate language learning. Each year, children do four WoW projects, two in English and two in the Mother Tongue, where they work together with their peers and teachers to investigate topics of interest in Mother Tongue.
With your permission, Madam Chairman, may I display some slides on the screens?
Here you see the MK children visiting a flower shop. These are the ones doing Tamil language, and interviewed the Indian owner about the use of roses in the Indian culture. They also interviewed others and searched through books and the Internet. The owner showed them around his shop, demonstrated how a rose garland was made using banana strings, and explained the use of roses on different occasions in the Indian culture.
The children were so excited that they decided to set up their own florist shop! This required them to work with each other, practise their Tamil and express their creativity. The children also learnt about the value of teaching others, when they went home and created rose bouquets with their families using recycled materials for their flower shop.
This WoW project illustrates the pedagogical approach of learning through play, as well as innovative techniques for language learning.Manpower Development for The Early Childhood Sector
In order to provide good pre-school education, we must also have good pre-school teachers. MOE is working closely with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), to train pre-school teachers. We have developed the Nurturing Early Learners Framework, which guides pre-schools in designing and implementing a quality kindergarten curriculum for children aged four to six.
We have also launched the Educators’ Guide, which helps teachers translate the Framework into quality learning experiences for children. About 6,000 pre-school educators were trained by end 2014.
We need more early childhood professionals to meet the growing demand for services. If you are interested in teaching, if you like children and are passionate about helping them build character and a strong foundation for life, do consider a career in Early Childhood Care and Education. I would also encourage persons, including women who have left the workforce and wish to return, to consider a career in early childhood.
There are many different pathways to become an early childhood professional, with entry and training into the sector at all levels. There are early childhood courses at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), polytechnic and university levels, each providing a stepping stone to the next level in combination with work experience.
For pre-service trainees, there are the ECDA Training Awards for both full-time ITE and Polytechnic Diplomas in Early Childhood Care and Education courses. The ITE Training Award was introduced last year. The take-up has been promising, with about 20 ITE students receiving the award to date.
Mr Ang Wei Neng and Mr Zainudin Nordin asked about support for mid-career learners. There are also pathways for mid-career professionals who want to enter the sector. Li Xian was an auditor in an accounting firm for four years. She wanted to change her job for a better work-life balance.
Inspired by her older sister who is an early childhood professional, Li Xian took the Singapore Polytechnic Conversion Diploma in early childhood Education, and completed the one-year course in September last year. She is happy with her career change and says that she is “enjoying the moments of satisfaction and the priceless hugs of the children on a daily basis!”
There are also part-time courses for those who cannot study full time. Working Professionals can take the part-time diploma in early childhood care and education at our polytechnics from October this year. These courses will give recognition for prior learning and competencies gained through work experience, which will shorten the overall course hours.
ECDA is also working closely with WDA to develop structured competency-based pathways. Here you can see the different pathways.SKILLSFUTURE
Education and Career Guidance
SkillsFuture has been a prominent feature of this budget and MOE is actively involved in implementing various aspects of SkillsFuture.
First, enhanced education and career guidance (ECG) will now be an integral part of our education system.
Let me share with you Daniel’s story. Daniel was an ITE student, completing a Higher Nitec in Mechanical Engineering, when I first met him last year. Like many young people, he wasn’t sure what his next step should be. He had taken mechanical engineering at ITE but it was not his first choice. He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue in engineering. I asked him what he thought he might like to do. He said either culinary arts or sports science but again, he wasn’t sure. I offered to arrange internships for him so he would be in a better position to decide. He opted to try culinary arts. I asked PS Café which operates in my constituency if they could take him on. They kindly agreed to do so.
Daniel duly went for his internship, which he enjoyed tremendously. The outcome however is interesting and this is how Daniel made his decision:
He spoke to the other chefs and they shared their experiences and advice. He also spoke to his section head of Mechanical Engineering at ITE. He knew he really enjoyed his work as a chef and had fun in the kitchen. But he also considered the cost of sacrificing and throwing away everything he had learnt in the two years. So after much thought, he decided to continue with engineering and not to discard what he has learnt. Cooking remains a passion for him but he wants to have something which builds on his engineering background as a career. If his passion for culinary arts is still strong, he may go back to it later in life. I suppose he can use the SkillsFuture credits.
He has since applied for polytechnic admission in engineering-related courses, including Engineering and Product Design. These courses would offer the prospect of interesting, practical, and stable jobs and they allow him to leverage his mechanical engineering skills foundation, yet explore new areas. However, his internship at PS Café provided him with valuable experience and he now has the option of revisiting culinary arts later stage if he wants.
The most important part about this story is that the advice, guidance and the internship empowered Daniel to make an informed choice that was his own decision. This story illustrates the importance of ECG, and this can be delivered through structured ECG programmes, short internships, or industrial visits.
Mr Ang Wei Neng noted that ECG counsellors need to be properly trained. We agree. MOE will play a co-ordinating role to ensure that ECG programmes are relevant to students, from primary to post-secondary levels. And a Central ECG Unit is being set up within MOE to oversee planning and implementation of ECG.
We will pilot an enhanced engagement programme for Secondary 2 and 3 students to build awareness of industries and sectors, and the applied learning environment in polytechnics. This year, we will begin with 50 schools for the Secondary 2 students, and 24 schools for the Secondary 3 students.
At the polytechnics and ITE, we will introduce more systematic ECG through a common set of ECG outcomes and learning objectives.
Internships and Industrial Attachments
Another aspect of SkillsFuture which MOE is closely involved in implementing is internships and industrial attachments.
The benefits of internships are clear. They provide an authentic learning environment which allows the student to gain real life practical knowledge and hands-on experience.
Mr Yee Jenn Jong spoke about the varied experiences of those on internships. Some companies do them well, others not so much. We agree that more can be done to improve internships. It must be done sector by sector. And the government will support, but employers must do their part.
In the early childhood education sector, ECDA has provided a capability grant to centres that host enhanced internships for students from the full-time Early Childhood Care and Education courses at the institutes of higher learning (IHLs). The grant will help employers defray costs of developing and running internship programmes - for instance, the cost of training, deployment of mentors, as well as costs in providing stipends, and teaching and learning resources for interns.
ECDA is also working with IHLs to develop structured internship programmes for specific durations, which will help companies to plan their internships better. We need more companies to support enhanced internships, to provide meaningful work assignments and mentoring by experienced professionals.
We also need companies to provide places for on-the-job training within the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme. Polytechnic and ITE graduates who successfully complete this skills training programme will receive industry-recognised qualifications such as advanced diplomas, specialised diplomas, or certificates. MPs have spoken about the need for manpower. The Earn and Learn Program is in fact a powerful recruitment platform and pipeline of talent for local businesses, MNCs and SMEs alike. I would encourage companies to take it up.
Lifelong learning is another important aspect of SkillsFuture. Let me tell you Johnny’s story.
I met Mr Johnny Ng, Managing Director of NKH Building Services, a company that does pump services and maintenance. Johnny finished his ‘O’ Levels in 1977 and proceeded straight to NS. He found it difficult to get a job after NS. He realised he needed to upgrade himself, and took part-time courses at the then-Singapore Vocational Institute and later ITE.
From 1988 to 1992, he took electrical studies, as he was then working with his brother to install and maintain control panels. From 1993 to 1994, he obtained his qualification as a licensed electrical worker. As business expanded, he realised he needed other skills. So between 1992 and 1995, he took up management courses at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
At the same time, electronics was booming. He saw the opportunity but realised he didn’t have the skills. So between 1995 and 1999, he took electronics courses at ITE.
Then came the 1998 crisis which hit many businesses hard, including Johnny’s. Undeterred, he modified his business plan to ride out the crisis. He changed his business focus, from installing pumps, to maintenance of pumps - a more shock-proof business model.
To equip himself for this new direction, he then took courses in plumbing (1999-2002) and air-conditioning (2002-2005). Not content with this, in 2003 to 2004, he became a licensed plumber. And somewhere between the electronics, air-cons and pumps, he managed to notice the pretty girl in the seat behind him at ITE - and married her.
On the strength of continuing education and training from ITE and SVI courses, Johnny transformed himself over 15 years from an ‘O’ Level school leaver to where he is today - the owner of a million-dollar business. His company is still growing and he has not stopped learning. He continues to take other courses, and he remains very grateful to ITE not just for his success in life - and also for his wife!
The MOE-funded CET courses at the polytechnics and ITE, and WDA-funded WSQ courses will help people to progress through life, just like Johnny. There are also short courses offered by the polytechnics and ITE in a wide range of interest areas.
IHLs as Centres of Innovation
Our IHLs are also centres of innovation. Let me tell you Derek’s story.
Derek graduated from Republic Polytechnic (RP) in 2008. His dream was to start a business to make fish bak kwa. After NS, he started a company in 2011 with RP and SPRING Singapore’s help. But his first venture failed. However, he did not give up. He continued to pitch for investments, look for opportunities, and learn from other businessmen who had bounced back from failure.
He continued to work with his mentor from RP’s Centre for Enterprise and Communication to improve his business plan. This is the original product. It was not so good in terms of presentation and also in how it was made. Derek tapped on what he learnt during his final-year project at RP about processes to prevent the introduction of bacteria. This led Derek to vacuum seal the fish bak kwa, to increase its shelf-life without adding preservatives.
Derek re-launched Ocean King in 2013 and secured his first funding in October 2014. It comes in 3 flavours in:
- King Salmon
- Big-Eye Tuna
- Blue Marlin
Today Ocean King is set on making the world’s finest fish bak kwa, a new take on a timeless tradition and enjoyment of bak kwa without the guilt.
Derek’s polytechnic education put him in good stead to be an entrepreneur. His story also shows how our polytechnics’ Centres of Innovation can help industry.
This is the new face of education - learning and collaboration do not need to stop when school ends. Education and industry are intertwined, and when done well, can spur entrepreneurship, support innovation and productivity, generate economic activity and help make dreams come true.
Madam Chairperson, if I may now say a few words in Malay.
Encik Zainuddin bertanya tentang hasil yang diingini daripada program prakerjaya dan pembelajaran sepanjang hayat.
Dengan SkillsFuture, pelajar-pelajar kita akan mendapat lebih banyak peluang untuk berjaya dalam kehidupan. Walaupun kita tidak dapat menjamin pekerjaan untuk semua, namun, dengan SkillsFuture, kita dapat meningkatkan harapan pekerjaan dan peluang untuk peningkatan dalam kerjaya.
ECG akan membantu pelajar-pelajar mengenali kekuatan mereka dan mengenal pasti peluang pekerjaan yang baik yang terdapat dalam pelbagai sektor;
Latihan amali akan membolehkan pelajar-pelajar untuk memperoleh kemahiran kehidupan yang sebenar dan pengetahuan tentang industri dengan lebih baik. Jika mereka berjaya dalam latihan amali, majikan pasti akan ingin menggajikan mereka;
Program Bekerja dan Belajar akan membolehkan mereka bekerja dan mendapat gaji, belajar, dan pada masa yang sama, mendapat kelayakan tambahan;
Program pembelajaran sepanjang hayat atau CET akan membolehkan mereka meningkatkan kemahiran sepanjang hayat. Hal ini akan membolehkan mereka mendapat kenaikan gaji dan pangkat, dan maju ke jawatan-jawatan penyeliaan, pengurusan ataupun menjadi pemilik. Cerita mengenai Encik Johnny Ng yanfg saya telah kongsi menunjukkan bagaimana hal ini boleh dilakukan.
Saya menggalakkan pelajar-pelajar kita agar mengambil kesempatan daripada peluang yang ditawarkan oleh SkillsFuture. Dengan kerja keras dan usaha gigih, kita semua boleh berjaya tidak kira titik permulaan kita.
Madam, I will now continue in English.
Professor Tan Tai Yong spoke about the need to support research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). HSS contributes to a better understanding of our society. It complements Science & Technology research. Investment in HSS research is important for Singapore’s development. Concerted effort needed to deepen research grounded in Singapore’s context.
Currently, MOE supports research funding for the social sciences through the Academic Research Fund. Many government agencies commission HSS research in areas relevant to public policy.
The Government is considering a bigger push in HSS research, guided by the consideration of serving Singapore’s needs. The Government will engage the academic community further on this.
Education in Singapore is already heavily subsidised. To provide further support with education costs, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will waive national examination fees and enhance financial assistance for Singapore Citizen students in Government-funded schools.Waiver of National Examination Fees
From 2015, MOE will waive the fees for national examinations administered by the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board1 for Singapore Citizen students in Government-funded schools. Students can save up to $900 for their national examinations from primary school through to pre-university.
For Singapore Citizen students taking the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBDP) examination in Government-funded schools, MOE will provide subsidies comparable2 to the amount of examination fees waived for the GCE ‘A’ levels. For those taking examinations leading to national vocational certification, i.e., the ITE Skills Certificate (ISC), the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy (WPLN) and the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ), full subsidies for the examination fees will be provided.
The measures set out above will also apply to Singapore Citizen students in the Government-funded Special Education (SPED) schools.
In addition, from Academic Year 2015, examination fees for Singapore Citizen students enrolled full-time in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnics will be waived.Enhanced Financial Assistance Scheme to Include Transport Subsidy
The MOE Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) will be enhanced to include a transport subsidy, which will take effect from 1 April 2015. Currently, the FAS provides for waiver of school and standard miscellaneous fees as well as free textbooks and uniforms.
For students on FAS who travel to and from school via public transport, they will be provided with $120 in transport credits per annum. For students in primary school who take the school bus, the FAS will cover 50 per cent of the regular school bus fare.
The FAS for students in Government-funded SPED schools will be similarly enhanced to provide $120 in transport credits per annum for those taking public transport. For SPED FAS students who take the school bus, they are already eligible for subsidies of up to 80 per cent of their school bus fares under the MSF Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO) Transport Subsidy Scheme.Increase in Annual Grants for School-Based Financial Assistance
To give the School Advisory and Management Committees more resources to provide further targeted assistance to students from less advantaged backgrounds, MOE will increase the annual grants provided for school-based financial assistance to $11 million, up from the $5 million currently, for three years (2015 to 2017).
Primary schools with more children from less advantaged backgrounds will receive up to $40,000 per year, while secondary school and pre-universities will receive up to $60,000 per year, up from $30,000 currently. SPED schools, which are significantly smaller in enrolment on average than mainstream schools, will receive an average of $25,000 per school, up from $15,000 currently.More Generous Income Criteria for Edusave Merit Bursary
The Edusave Merit Bursary (EMB) is given to students in the top 25 per cent of academic performance for their level and course, and whose household income does not exceed the prescribed income criteria. The income criterion for EMB will be raised to a gross household income of not more than $6,000 per month, up from the current $5,000 per month. Similarly, the per capita household income criterion, meant to recognise that larger families often have larger financial needs, will be raised to not more than $1,500 per month, up from the current $1,250 per month.Top-ups to Edusave and Post-Secondary Education Account
MOE will also provide a top-up of $150 to the Edusave Accounts of each Singapore Citizen student aged 7 to 16, on top of the annual contribution of up to $240. Students above the age of 16 who are still in secondary school will also receive the top-up. This will benefit 400,000 students.
MOE will also provide a top-up of up to $500 to the Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) of each Singapore Citizen aged 17 to 20. This top-up will benefit 160,000 Singaporeans and the majority will receive $500.
In total, the above measures introduced for students from the primary to post-secondary level will cost about $250 million over the next three years and will provide further support for Singaporean families with their education costs.Footnote
- These examinations include the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE ‘O’ Level) Examination, Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Normal Level (GCE ‘N’ Level) Examination, and Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE ‘A’ Level) Examination. ↩
- Subsidies will be pegged to 50% of the actual examination fees paid by the Singapore Citizen candidate. ↩
Madam, Minister Heng spoke about the need to go beyond a narrow focus on grades and exams, and emphasise deep skills, holistic education, strong values, and lifelong learning. We want an economy that is resilient and flexible, as well as a society that is caring, harmonious, and cohesive.
I will now speak on how MOE is trying to realise our vision in the areas of bilingualism and support for students with special educational needs.BILINGUALISM
Earlier, Minister Heng and SMS Indranee have acknowledged the points made by Mr Hri Kumar on language and communication skills. Because language and communication are so integral to what we are trying to achieve for our students, I think his points bear being acknowledged by the 3rd speaker from MOE.
English, our working language, provides a common platform for Singaporeans of all races and backgrounds to interact with and understand one another. Spoken English is also a key competency for the global economy. MOE is committed to improving our students’ proficiency in it. We have created more opportunities for primary school students to speak, ask questions, and interact in class through the implementation of the Strategies for English Language Learning and Reading, or STELLAR, Programme in 2010. We increased the weightage of the listening and speaking components of the ‘N’ and ‘O’ Level English Language examinations in 2013. Our Pre-University students must offer Project Work, which emphasises group discussion and requires students to make an oral presentation as part of their assessment.
Our Mother Tongue Languages (MTLs) are an anchor to our Asian culture and traditional values, and provide a foundation for our students to acquire cross-cultural competencies.
The Member’s speech highlights a key tension between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations in the learning of MTL. Extrinsic motivations like bonus points can be useful. They encourage students to persevere and stretch themselves. They also signal the importance that we place on our Mother Tongue Languages. However, over-reliance on these motivators can have drawbacks, for instance, ending up with situations where our students stop putting in effort once the motivators are no longer there.
On the other hand, intrinsic motivation nurtures self-directed learners who will maintain good communication skills in their MTLs over their lifetimes. Therefore, while extrinsic motivators like bonus points do exist, our core goal is to foster intrinsic motivation.
We aim to teach the MTLs in fun and engaging ways that will interest our students. For instance, all our schools organise MTL Fortnights annually. These fortnights are meant to provide opportunities for students to learn and use their MTLs in authentic contexts. In addition, we recognise that we are more likely to sustain our children’s interest in MTL by leveraging their instinctive feel for technology. To this end, we had introduced initiatives such as the Oracy eLand in 2011 and the iMTL Portal in 2013. Both are online portals that aim to teach students how to communicate in their MTLs through multimedia, games, and interactive tasks.
Madam Chairperson, I would now like to say a few words in Mandarin.
Madam Chairperson, back to English.
To reinforce what is taught in the classroom, we want our students to apply their MTL communication skills outside the classroom. MOE works with community partners to provide opportunities for students to do so. These activities reach out to more than 100,000 participants each year.
Our teachers work with the Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee to author and publish books under the Lower Primary Storybooks Project, so as to foster the love of reading among young children. Xinmin Secondary School collaborates with the Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Language and Learning and zbCOMMA (逗号) to organise the “Create Your Own Newspaper” Competition for secondary schools.
Last year, I attended Avvaiyar Vizha, an event organised by the Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee and the Tamil Language and Cultural Society to commemorate an influential female Tamil poet. I was heartened by how our schools worked together with community partners to promote greater awareness of Tamil literature and hone our students’ skills in spoken Tamil.OVERVIEW OF SUPPORT FOR SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS (SEN)
In response to Ms Denise Phua’s question about the private Special Education (SPED) schools, I will first describe the overall landscape of MOE’s support for students with special educational needs (SEN). MOE’s broad approach is to support them in educational settings most appropriate to their needs. Students who have the cognitive abilities and adaptive skills to learn in mainstream settings are provided for in our mainstream schools. Students who require intensive specialised assistance in their education to optimise learning and their potential for independent living are provided for in the 20 Special Education or SPED schools funded by MOE and operated by Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs). The vast majority of our students with SEN are catered for in these two types of settings.
A small number of private education institutions (PEIs) offer full-time special education courses. The majority of students enrolled across these schools are non-Singaporeans. These schools do provide additional choice for some Singaporean parents too.
While we will carefully consider the Member’s proposal, these schools are currently regulated through the Private Education Act by the Council for Private Education (CPE), a statutory board under MOE. While the Council does not accredit the academic quality of programmes offered by PEIs, its regulatory framework aims to safeguard the interests of students and parents and to help them make more informed choices. The Council ensures minimum standards in corporate and academic governance, strengthens student fee protection measures, and requires the PEIs to disclose key information on courses and teachers.
Whenever cases involving privately-funded SPED schools come to the Council’s attention, they have been looked into carefully. The Council has also taken the appropriate steps to address issues at these schools. I wish to assure Ms Phua that we do not condone abuse or criminal misconduct at any of our PEIs, including the private SPED schools. If any evidence of such conduct is uncovered, the matter will be referred to the police.STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS (SEN) IN MAINSTREAM SCHOOLS
We also acknowledge the Member’s concern for students who are at risk of being “left behind”. I wish to emphasise that MOE is committed to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Minister Heng has touched on various measures including enhanced financial assistance.
On the issue of a potential digital gap, I would like to share that our schools can loan computing devices to students from lower-income backgrounds. On the issue of international exposure, our Trips for International Experience (TIE) initiative provides all students with the opportunity to embark on overseas learning programmes. Our schools, polytechnics, and ITE are also provided with an Opportunity Fund which can be used to subsidise computer purchases as well as overseas visits, student exchange programmes, and school enrichment programmes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
On Members’ suggestions on supporting SEN in mainstream schools, we constantly welcome feedback from VWOs, the community, and other stakeholders for strengthening our models of provision for support. Such feedback has been useful in the past. We will continue to seek feedback and refine what we are currently doing.
On SEN, MOE is committed to uplifting the current level of support. 10 to 20% of teachers in every mainstream school are trained to have deeper knowledge and skills to support students with special needs. They work together with Allied Educators (Learning and Behavioural Support) [AEDs(LBS)], who have been posted to all primary schools and 69 secondary schools.
I wish to thank several members, Ms Chia Yong Yong, Ms Denise Phua and Dr Intan Azura for expressing strong interest in our AED (LBS).
I wish to share that MOE is committed to attracting, retaining, and systematically training our AEDs(LBS). We have increased the numbers of AEDs(LBS), from 300 in 2010 to around 400 today. In addition, all newly-recruited officers undergo a one-year full-time Diploma in Special Education offered by the National Institute of Education (NIE) before they are deployed. We also provide in-service professional development by sponsoring officers to attend the Advanced Diploma in Special Education. We will continue to review our AED (LBS) staffing to ensure adequacy of support for our students with SEN. I cannot agree more with our members that when doing so we must always be very careful because it is important to recruit officers who have the right disposition, the right heart for our students with SEN and the potential to do a great job.
We have also invested more to help students with dyslexia and this has been shared by Minister Heng earlier. We introduced the School-based Dyslexia Remediation (SDR) Programme in 2012. Since then we have been scaling it up as quickly as we can. Along the way, we have refined our instructional methods and trained more instructors. This year sees the expansion of the SDR Programme to 60 additional schools. The programme will be made available to all primary schools in 2016.
Support for children with SEN also comes in the form of allowing special arrangements for some of them sitting for national examinations. One example would be the Mother Tongue Language exemptions at PSLE that Mr Yee Jenn Jong spoke about.
We have made special accommodations for a small group of students at PSLE who have compelling reasons for finding it hard to cope with MTLs. Among these students, some may have joined or re-joined the school system mid-stream without having learnt MTLs before. Others are students with certified medical conditions or SEN, such as dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Each exemption appeal citing medical grounds or special educational needs is carefully reviewed by an MOE panel comprising specialists who will consider submitted evidence such as medical reports, school reports, examination results and work samples.
I wish to highlight that exemptions from MTL are not given lightly. If the child indeed has the condition cited in the application, exemption will be considered. If the member knows of instances where this is not so, you can provide us with the details and we will be sure to look into these cases.STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS IN INSTITUTES OF HIGHER LEARNING
I would like to thank Ms Chia Yong Yong for asking about the SEN Support Offices (or SSOs) in our IHLs, as well as capability development and manpower training to help make them more effective in supporting our students with SEN. These are the key initiatives to support our students with SEN in our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs). Every ITE college, polytechnic, and publicly-funded university now has an SSO that serves as a first-stop help point. The SSOs also administer the SEN Fund, which helps ITE and polytechnic students with physical or sensory impairment purchase Assistive Technology (AT) devices or support services.
More than 500 students have sought help from these offices. To enhance capability development, the SSOs in the polytechnics and ITE colleges meet every three months to share best practices. This month, Singapore Polytechnic will be hosting a workshop on Accessible Education by Brandman University’s Office of Disabilities Services for the SSOs in all of our IHLs.
Our IHLs have also been actively conducting staff training on basic SEN awareness and support on campus since 2013. The training introduces IHL staff to a wide range of SEN, and teaches classroom strategies to support students in their learning.
In our polytechnics and ITE, 1,500 staff members have been trained, including 1 in 5 of these institutions’ academic staff. Over the next 5 years, our polytechnics and ITE will work towards training all their academic staff in basic SEN awareness and support. Our universities also provide training opportunities for staff who interact with students with SEN.
I think quite a lot is happening in terms of SSOs in IHLs and I would like to thank Ms Chia as well as Ms Phua for your strong support for this initiative.
Let me cite the example of a student who has been helped by this initiative. He is Lionel Tan, an 18 year-old Business Services student at ITE College Central with visual impairment. Upon receiving an offer for the Nitec in Information Communication Technology (ICT) course, ITE’s Learning Accessibility Office (LAO) spoke to Lionel to understand his needs. Through this session, which included a tour of the ICT labs, Lionel realised that the course might not be suitable for him. The LAO then worked with Lionel to identify his other interests, and helped him enrol in a course suitable to his strengths and needs. The Office then helped provide Lionel with the appropriate support. A discussion between Lionel’s lecturers and his former teachers at Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School was arranged. The Office also purchased a text-to-speech software and a note-taking device using the SEN Fund. Lionel’s lecturers have also worked with the Office to provide him with accessible learning materials.
I wish to thank Ms Phua for her proposal to allow students with other types of SEN to tap on the SEN Fund. The SEN Fund is part of a broader framework of measures to support students with SEN. We aim to tailor our support measures to the specific needs of students, such as access arrangements for students with dyslexia, orientation of training facilities for students with ASD, and additional assistance in classroom learning for students with ADHD. MOE and our IHLs will continue to review the range of support available, and work towards strengthening it.SUPPORT FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION SCHOOLS
DPM Tharman and Minister Heng have spoken about how our spending on SPED schools has increased by 50% over the last 5 years. Please allow me to flesh out how this has translated into new programmes and better programmes that enhance the affordability, accessibility and quality of SPED. With your permission, Mdm Chair, I would wish to display an infographic on our screens.
Regarding affordability, we know that parents of children with SEN are more likely to face additional financial outlay. That is why it is so important to help them with affordability. MOE therefore provides substantial financial support. We have extended various schemes to SPED schools over the years. These include the Edusave Scheme, the SPED Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), and the School Breakfast Programme. We will continue to extend financial support, to help SPED students fulfil their aspirations. This year, we will be enhancing school-based financial assistance for the next three years to $25,000 per school on average, up from $15,000. We will also enhance the SPED FAS to include a public transport subsidy.
At the same time, we will fully subsidise the exam fees paid by Singaporean students in SPED schools taking national examinations, as well as examinations leading up to national vocational certification.
To give a sense of what this subsidy entails for the students, let me cite the example of Shaherah bte Daud, a 16 year-old student at Metta School. Shaherah aspires to be a chef, and will be taking the ITE Skills Certificate (ISC) in Baking Practice. Shaherah does not need to pay for the assessments for ISC Type 1 and Type 3 modules over the next two years. If she wishes to improve her mastery of baking, she will not need to pay for the assessments for the Type 2 and 4 modules subsequently. From now until she reaches 21 years of age, Shaherah can take these assessments and work towards obtaining her certification.
For accessibility, MOE works to make it easier for children who need special education to be placed in the right schools. To this end, we regularly upgrade school infrastructure and expand the capacity of some SPED schools to meet demand. Today, 15 SPED schools are purpose-built, and 5 have been refurbished.
We also want to help parents make the important decision of placing their child in the right school. To do so, we have introduced Post-Diagnosis Educational Guidance, providing accurate information and advice, as well as emotional support, to parents whose children have been recommended for placement in a SPED school.
The key plank in our efforts to raise the quality of SPED has been the SPED Curriculum Framework put in place in 2012. This guides SPED schools in delivering a quality and holistic education, and helps SPED students achieve living, learning, and working outcomes. I want to thank Ms Denise Phua for working tirelessly with us on improving the curriculum and also for her new suggestions, all of which we will consider carefully.
We have also directed additional resources to SPED schools like the Teaching and Learning Fund, the Curriculum Enhancement Fund, the High Needs Grant for students to fund manpower for students who need more help, the MOE-Tote Board ICT Fund for schools to purchase info-comm technology as an aid to teaching, and a Parent Support Group Fund to build and sustain home-school partnerships.
Beyond funding, MOE recognises that it is crucial for SPED schools to have skilled and dedicated teachers, and staff.
We support SPED teachers to upgrade their skills by developing milestone programmes like the Diploma in Special Education and awarding post-graduate scholarships to deserving teachers. We also fund SPED schools to conduct training workshops and send teachers for conferences and learning journeys.
One key initiative has been the Advanced Diploma in Special Education targeted at experienced teachers. We have received very positive feedback about the Advanced Diploma. Educators have found it meaningful, enriching and appreciated the research-to-practice approach taken by the course.
Given the context of SPED, we know that parents and SPED educators are very concerned about what their children or students will do after they leave school. To help address this concern, we have been working hard on helping SPED students be future-ready.
We introduced a Vocational Education Framework in 2010 to cater to students who can go further in terms of work-capability. We have also facilitated quality vocational education programmes in SPED schools serving students with mild intellectual disability leading to national certification in selected industry areas. This has enabled 1 in 4 SPED graduates to be successfully employed.
For students who can work but may not benefit from vocational certification, we have worked with MSF, SG Enable, and the SPED schools to prototype a School-to-Work programme in 5 SPED schools starting in 2014. We intend to make it available to more SPED schools in phases from 2016.
These measures provide different pathways for SPED students to build a robust foundation of skills, and prepare for the world of work. In this regard, I think we can think of the SPED sector as an early adopter of the key spirit of SkillsFuture.CONCLUSION
Madam, the Government has been doing more to ensure that we continue to be a society that gives hope and assurance to all.
MOE will continue to work with MSF, NCSS, SG Enable and other partners to embrace Singaporeans with special needs as full and integral members of our society.
But the Government cannot do it alone. I wish to thank our Voluntary Welfare Organisations, supportive employers and businesses, our educators and everyone who have worked hard to build an inclusive society.
Madam Chairperson, schools, parents and the community are key partners in the collective effort to forge a future where our people are valued for who they are, beyond the credentials they possess.Role of Holistic Education in Bringing Out The Best In Every Child
To develop our children holistically and equip them with a strong foundation of values, MOE has strengthened art, music, sports, and outdoor activities as well as internationalisation efforts in schools. In the area of sports and CCAs, we agree with Dr Benedict Tan and Mr Yee Jenn Jong that all students would benefit from participating in sports and CCAs at competitive and non-competitive levels as part of their holistic development.
I am pleased to inform Members that with the revised PE programme, all our students learn fundamental movement skills and concepts, and are given broad exposure to at least 6 sports, as well as dance, gymnastics, athletics, swimming and outdoor education. Dr Benedict Tan had suggested that all students should play a sport during Sports Day. Sports Day is one of the many opportunities for student participation. Besides Sports Day, schools provide a wide range of sporting experiences for all students throughout the year, such as inter-class and inter-house games, cross-country meets, Sports Carnival, and the Sports Education Programme.
The CCA programme complements these experiences and more than 60 Sports CCAs are offered in our schools. About one-third of all our students participate in Sports CCAs, of which 60% are non-school team players. The range of CCAs offered within each school would depend on student interests, and availability of facilities, financial and manpower resources. Each type of sporting experience serves a different purpose and allows for excellence and mass participation to co-exist.
Dr Tan may be pleased to know that through outdoor education in the curriculum, all primary and secondary school students learn simple navigation and outdoor living skills such as cooking and shelter-building. All students would have attended at least 1 outdoor adventure camp by the end of Primary 6, and at least 2 camps by the end of Secondary 4; one of which is an outdoor adventure camp.
Through sports, CCAs and outdoor education, our students learn to work in teams, develop resilience and ruggedness, and discover aspects of themselves that they might not discover in the classroom.
Such out-of-classroom experiences also occur through cross-cultural experiences provided by schools through multiple platforms such as exchange programmes, overseas learning journeys, and partnering of foreign communities based in Singapore. These internationalisation efforts better prepare our students for the globalised environment as they develop the 21st Century Competencies (21CC) of global awareness and cross-cultural skills.
We agree with Dr Benedict Tan that sports is an effective platform that can be used to foster interaction between our youth and those of other nationalities. This is already being done through sports events such as the Annual ASEAN Schools Games, National School Games, and school-based collaborations between local and international schools. For example, Jurong Secondary and North Vista Secondary meet the Singapore American School annually for friendly games in basketball; and Queensway Secondary has organised friendly games in football and basketball with the Australian International School for the past 2 years.
However, holistic development is not the sole responsibility of schools. Parents and the community must play their part to offer these opportunities. Community clubs, Sport Singapore, National Sports Associations, and People’s Association offer many such programmes and activities, and students and parents should participate in these to further develop their interests and strengths in various domains.Role of Parents in SkillsFuture
Let me now talk about SkillsFuture. Minister and SMS Indranee have spoken about SkillsFuture and the importance of helping children discover their unique strengths and interests, and enabling them to pursue different pathways to their fullest potential.
All schools do this through their Education and Career Guidance, or ECG, efforts. Let me respond to Mr Ang Wei Neng’s query on the role parents can play in career counselling. It is important that parents recognise that the competencies and skills that were needed for jobs of today may not be the same ones that their children will need for the jobs of tomorrow.
Parents can partner schools in their ECG efforts. Using resources such as the MOE e-careers portal and Parents-in-Education website, parents can support our young in exploring various educational pathways and making informed choices based on their interests, strengths and work values.
In Presbyterian High School in Ang Mo Kio students go through a Celebrate Life! Seminar that helps them identify various pathways based on their interests, strengths and aspirations. The school includes parents by introducing the e-careers portal to them and encouraging the use of its tools to guide their child in setting and achieving their goals in life. Parents are also made more aware of various pathways through Learning Journeys to post-secondary education institutes (PSEIs) and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs).
At Greenview Secondary School in Pasir Ris, parents are involved in the programme named, Work Attachment with Parents. For 3 days during the June holidays, parents of Secondary 2 and 3 students volunteer to take their children to work to expose them to the work they do in various jobs such as those in the wet market, prisons, aviation, and pediatric oncology. The students reflected that they had greater appreciation of their parents after witnessing how hard they worked and the kind of realities they faced in the workplace. Such authentic experiences are invaluable and prepare students well for the expectations of the workplace.
By engaging in ECG efforts, parents may discover that their children want to pursue pathways that may be more unconventional. After the GCE O-level examinations, Ariel De Silva qualified for the polytechnic but found that none of the courses she qualified for were of interest to her. Her mother, Mrs Sarie De Silva, recognised her strengths in creativity, language and storytelling, and encouraged her to pursue the early childhood education course at ITE. As a result of pursuing her interests, Ariel did well in ITE and went on to Temasek Polytechnic. She is now a qualified pre-school teacher.
As parents, we must have faith that when our children pursue what they are strong in and passionate about, they will find success and fulfilment.Networks of Support for ECG Efforts
Parents can also come together through the Parent Support Group or PSG network to support schools’ ECG efforts by giving students exposure to occupations beyond what their own parents are engaged in.
In Eunos Primary School, upper primary students use the e-careers portal to learn about different occupations during ECG lessons. These come to life through the work-shadowing programme where PSG members host Primary 6 students at their workplaces to give them real-world experiences. This initiative has benefitted 120 students since its implementation in 2012, and more parents from the PSG are coming forward to support this programme.
Pei Hwa Secondary School in Sengkang engages the PSG, alumni, school advisory committee (SAC) and industry partners in a structured ECG programme for all students. The PSG, Alumni and SAC host in-conversation sessions with students to share about their education and career choices, and the lessons learnt through their personal challenges. Secondary 3 students can opt to participate in work attachment opportunities at Resorts World Sentosa, Wildlife Reserves Singapore and selected hotels and retail outlets. These efforts culminate in an ECG Day for Secondary 4 and 5 students where industry partners, former students or lecturers from IHLs are invited as keynote speakers and course advisors.
Thus, industry partners are very important, and perhaps no one speaks as credibly on workplace requirements and expectations than our industry leaders. We will embark on a series, “What Bosses Want” where industry captains share about the skills, attitudes and attributes valued by employers. This series aims to raise parents’ awareness and appreciation of the variety of career options available, and the importance of nurturing children’s strengths and interests, and imbibing in them values such as initiative, resilience, motivation, and adaptability.
By working collectively to enhance our ECG efforts, we are better placed to help widen our children’s opportunities for success.MOE is Committed To Developing Closer Partnerships With Parents And The Community
Beyond involvement in ECG efforts, the PSG network helps parents support schools and each other in nurturing their children holistically. I am happy to note that almost all schools have a PSG made up of enthusiastic and supportive parents. MOE has been encouraging the development of PSGs and sees value in establishing supportive networks amongst them.
We plan to organise a series of 4 networking sessions for PSG leaders this year. These sessions will bring together the PSG leaders and school staff to synergise efforts for enhancing school-home partnerships. About 730 participants will be attending these 4 sessions.
I attended the first session on 28 February and was heartened to see such an engaged group of PSG leaders and staff from the East Zone, discussing the various ways parents and schools can collaborate and support each other in their clusters.
I met a number of PSG leaders who have been active in their children’s schools for many years; some of whom continue to contribute even after their children had graduated. One such parent is Mr George Punnoose, current PSG Chairman at Canossa Convent Primary. He has been with the PSG for 9 years and says that he continues to be active even though his daughter has graduated because of his love for the children and the desire to bring cheer to their school life through the PSG activities.
I also met active PSG leaders who had come from other countries and had placed their children in our schools because they appreciate our education system. Their involvement in schools and PSGs enhances the cultural diversity and global awareness of the children in the school.
Generally, PSGs comprise more mothers and I was especially encouraged therefore to see so many fathers at this session. Mr Gordon Tan, PSG Chairman in St Hilda’s Secondary School joined the PSG in 2012 because he wanted to be the ‘Best Father’ for his son, especially during the formative teenage years. Through parent-child bonding activities, he got to know his son better and together, they have created many treasured memories.
Another father, Mr Muchtar Bin Abdul Karim, Chairman of PSG in Junyuan Primary School was in the school’s first graduating cohort. He enrolled his daughter in 2014 and joined the school’s PSG as a way to give back to his alma mater. He believes that his presence in school helps his daughter grow in confidence, and hopes that it inspires her to follow in his footsteps by giving back to the community.
The fathers I met shared that their involvement in PSG allowed them to play a greater role in shaping the way their children developed. They felt that it was important for PSGs to reach out to more fathers and want to do their part to promote this.
Such engaged and supportive parents are positive role models for other parents. To further encourage mentoring relationships, I am pleased to inform that the 9th Council of COMPASS will launch a COMPASS-PSG Mentoring Programme or Scheme. Depending on the needs of the school, the Scheme will match PSGs that would like support in developing further, with PSG Mentors from COMPASS. Our PSG representatives on COMPASS are all experienced members of PSGs in schools and are well-placed to provide support to other PSGs.
When COMPASS member, Mr Tio Chong Heng shared at the inaugural PSG Conference in 2014 about the fathers’ group in St Hilda’s Primary, PSG representatives from several schools namely Rulang Primary, Bukit Timah Primary, Bedok Green Primary and Guangyang Primary were inspired to explore how fathers could be involved in their schools. A visit to St Hilda’s Primary to observe how the fathers’ group conducted itself, paved the way for a rock-climbing father-child bonding activity last year for Bedok Green Primary.
Through this Scheme, we hope to encourage PSGs to strengthen their partnership with schools to benefit their children and prepare them for the world of tomorrow.Conclusion
Madam, when we come together as a community to provide opportunities for our children and extend our definitions of success, we will teach our children that they are each valued for their unique strengths, talents and interests. We will better enable our children to succeed in society in the future.
Madam, let me conclude my speech in Malay:Conclusion (in Malay Language)
Dunia yang bakal didiami dan tempat bekerja anak-anak kita apabila mereka dewasa kelak akan jauh berbeza daripada dunia yang kita kenal sekarang. Maka itu, pembelajaran sepanjang hayat amat penting. Kita perlu membantu anak-anak kita memperoleh pengetahuan, kemahiran dan kecekapan yang akan memperkasa diri mereka untuk menghadapi ketidaktentuan dan kerumitan pada masa depan. Kemahiran-kemahiran tersebut termasuklah kemahiran berkomunikasi, kemahiran maklumat dan kerja berkumpulan. Lebih penting lagi, kita perlu membantu mereka membentuk diri menjadi insan yang berwatak baik, berupaya membuat keputusan yang arif dan mampu menghadapi cabaran dengan bingkas dan berupaya menyesuaikan diri. Ciri-ciri inilah yang diperlukan oleh majikan dalam diri para pekerja pada masa depan. Mereka mahukan pekerja yang menunjukkan inisiatif, bermotivasi dan bersemangat tinggi dalam melaksanakan tugas mereka.
Oleh itu, amat genting bagi ibu bapa dan sekolah bekerjasama untuk membantu anak-anak membina ciri-ciri ini dan sedar akan perkara-perkara yang mereka minati dan yang mendorong mereka. Hal ini boleh dilakukan dengan melibatkan diri dalam Bimbingan Pendidikan dan Kerjaya (atau ECG) anak-anak. Walaupun MOE akan menyediakan sekolah-sekolah menengah, maktab-maktab rendah, institusi pusat, politeknik-politeknik dan Institut Pendidikan Teknikal dengan kaunselor-kaunselor ECG, ibu bapa harus menjalankan tanggungjawab demi mengenali anak-anak mereka. Hal ini dapat dilakukan dengan mengkhususkan waktu untuk bersama mereka demi membantu anak-anak mengenal pasti pelbagai peluang dan kemungkinan untuk diri mereka.
Saya menggalakkan semua ibu bapa menyokong usaha semua sekolah dalam Bimbingan Pendidikan dan Kerjaya dengan menggunakan bahan-bahan seperti portal ECG dan laman sesawang Ibu Bapa dalam Pendidikan (atau Parents-in-Education Website) untuk mengetahui dengan lebih lanjut mengenai laluan kerjaya yang berbeza-beza pada masa depan. Bahan-bahan ini menyediakan ibu bapa dengan panduan bagaimana mereka boleh membimbing dan memandu anak-anak mereka membuat keputusan yang matang mengenai masa depan mereka. Terdapat juga maklumat mengenai pelbagai laluan pendidikan dan soalan-soalan panduan dan alat-alat untuk menyediakan profil diri yang membantu pelajar membuat pilihan setelah membuat kajian berdasarkan minat, kekuatan dan nilai mereka.
Apabila anak-anak kita tahu perkara-perkara yang mendorong mereka serta kekuatan dan minat mereka, ibu bapa dan sekolah boleh bekerjasama untuk memberikan peluang kepada anak-anak mereka untuk menggunakan kekuatan dan meneruskan minat mereka. Ada kalanya, hal ini memerlukan ibu bapa dan anak-anak keluar daripada zon selesa mereka untuk menggalakkan anak-anak mereka mencuba sesuatu yang baharu. Hanya dengan pengalaman beginilah anak-anak akan sedar aspek-aspek baharu mengenai diri mereka.
Ibu bapa Adly Azizi Adly Azamin merupakan contoh yang menunjukkan bahawa dengan memberikan peluang untuk melakukan sesuatu yang baharu boleh menjadi panduan positif untuk masa depan. Apabila Adly Azizi mula memasuki tarian sebagai kegiatan kokurikulum (CCA) di Sekolah Montfort Junior, dia tidak mempunyai latihan formal dalam seni tari. Walau bagaimanapun, melalui CCA, dia sedar akan bakat dan membentuk minat yang mendalam mengenai seni tari. Meskipun dia mempunyai pengalaman yang terbatas dalam seni tari, Adly menyertai sesi uji bakat untuk menyertai Sekolah Seni atau SOTA dengan sokongan ibu bapanya. Kini, Adly merupakan pelajar berusia lima belas tahun yang mempunyai semangat yang membara untuk meneruskan perjalanan seni tarinya di Fakulti Tarian SOTA.
Oleh itu, ibu bapa dan sekolah perlu bekerjasama untuk membantu anak-anak kita belajar tentang pelbagai laluan yang tersedia kepada mereka dan memberikan mereka ruang untuk menggunakan kekuatan dan meneruskan minat anak-anak mereka ke peringkat yang tertinggi yang mungkin. Kita harus menggalakkan mereka mengenal pasti pilihan yang akan membuat mereka berasa gembira dan berpuas hati. Kita juga harus menghormati apa sahaja laluan pilihan mereka. Dengan ini, peluang untuk anak-anak berjaya akan menjadi lebih luas. Terima kasih.
Infosheet on Levelling up Programmes in Schools:
- Learning Support Programmes (LSP)
- Learning Support for Mathematics (LSM)
- Stronger Support for English Language Literacy and Numeracy in Schools from primary to secondary schools
The LSP is a specialised early intervention programme aimed at providing learning support to students who enter Primary 1 with weak English language and literacy skills. Students are identified for LSP through a systematic screening process carried out at the beginning of Primary 1. The objective of the LSP is to equip Students with basic literacy skills so that they could access learning in the regular classroom.
The LSP is implemented by Learning Support Co-ordinators (LSCs) who are teachers. LSCs are given additional training by MOE HQ that equips them with specialised knowledge and skills to implement the programme. Students are supported daily for half an hour a day in groups of 8 to 10 Students. Support continues in Primary 2 for Students who need it.
The LSP was first introduced in 1992. It is now implemented in all primary schools.Learning Support for Maths (LSM)
Learning Support for Mathematics (LSM) is an early intervention effort aimed at providing additional support to students who do not have foundational numeracy skills and knowledge to access the Primary 1 Maths curriculum. Students were identified for the intervention through a screening process carried out at the beginning of Primary 1. They were supported by a LSM Teacher for 4-8 periods a week.
LSM started as a pilot project in 45 schools in 2001. It is now implemented in all primary schools. Starting in 2006, all schools were provided with additional teacher posts, which are allocated according to the needs of each school. Training and teaching resources were provided for LSM teachers in supporting their LSM Students. LSM has also been extended to P2 from this year.Stronger Support for English Language Literacy in Schools
In addition to LSP, MOE announced in 2013 that it will roll out additional learning programmes to all the primary and secondary schools to provide stronger support for English language literacy in schools. Students who have fallen behind will be supported not just up to Primary 2 in LSP, but all the way till the end of their secondary school education. These programmes together with the LSP for Primary 1 and 2 pupils with limited literacy will help all our students level up.Stronger Support for Numeracy in Schools
MOE also announced in 2013 that it was developing additional resources and stepping up the training of primary and secondary teachers to equip them with the teaching strategies to help students acquire numeracy skills. These teaching strategies could be used in class or in small group instruction, both within and outside curriculum hours. They allow students to learn at their own pace and strengthen their numeracy skills.
Over the last two years, MOE has rolled out these resources and training to primary and secondary schools. Students who lack the necessary numeracy skills are given support at all levels in the primary and secondary schools. This goes beyond the current Learning Support Programme for Mathematics which is extended only to Primary 1 and 2 students, to providing stronger support to lower progress learners all the way to S4.
As part of the national SkillsFuture movement, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will introduce a new Early Childhood Capability Grant to support child care centres and kindergartens that host enhanced internships for students from the full-time Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) courses at the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). The enhancements in these internship programmes will better support structured learning at the workplace. This is critical in supporting ECDA’s strategies to attract and retain passionate early childhood professionals by providing them with realistic and meaningful exposure to working in the sector.
Enhanced internships for the early childhood sector. From September 2015, enhancements to internships will be progressively introduced in the full-time ECCE courses in the polytechnics and ITE (Annex A). The enhanced internship aims to provide students with meaningful on-the-job experiences to develop work-ready skills, and to ease students’ transition into the sector as trained early childhood teachers after they graduate.
Key enhancements include: * Standardised internship duration of 22 weeks across full-time ECCE polytechnic and ITE courses to provide more time for on-the-job learning; this is almost double the length of some existing internship programmes. * More comprehensive learning outcomes covering key knowledge and skills, with an emphasis on translating theory into practice. * Structured mentoring throughout the programme by experienced early childhood teachers equipped with mentoring skills.
Early Childhood Capability Grant. ECDA will introduce this in tandem with the launch of the enhanced internships to help operators build capabilities to deliver consistent and quality internship experiences (Annex B). The grant will be provided to operators selected by the polytechnics and ITE to host interns under the enhanced internship programme. It will support the cost of training and deployment of mentors, as well as costs in providing stipends, and teaching and learning resources for interns.
Operators keen to host students under the enhanced internships may contact Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic and ITE for more information.
Appointment of 17 Sector Coordinators Among Post-Secondary Education Institutions and Launch of Skills-Based Modular Courses in 2015
SkillsFuture is a national movement that seeks to develop skills for the future and help Singaporeans build a future based on skills mastery. In Budget 2015, DPM Tharman outlined a slate of SkillsFuture initiatives to help every Singaporean to advance based on skills. In the education sector, SkillsFuture efforts include strengthening education and career guidance in schools, enhancing internships to better students’ learning at the workplace, and launching the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme to provide fresh graduates from the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) a head-start in their careers.
To support SkillsFuture, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has appointed, among the post-secondary education institutions (PSEIs), sector coordinators to strengthen linkages between study and work.
The PSEIs will also launch new skills-based modular courses in the second half of 2015 to provide Singaporeans with more opportunities to acquire relevant skills.Sector Coordinators Appointed to Strengthen Industry Engagement
Sector coordinators have been appointed for each of the following 17 sectors:
The sector coordinators will play a central role in driving industry engagement and coordinating the implementation of SkillsFuture initiatives for their respective sectors, particularly among the polytechnics and ITE.
Students will benefit from strengthened linkages between the PSEIs and employers, through internships, curriculum development, and industry projects. The sector coordinators will also facilitate the spread of best practices across the education institutions. Employers will benefit from having a convenient point-of-contact within each sector to coordinate their outreach to and engagement with the PSEIs, particularly for new projects and collaborations.
Many of the 17 sectors are aligned with the future growth and priority sectors identified by DPM Tharman in his Budget 2015 speech. Over time, more sector coordinators will be appointed for other industry sectors.Launch of Skills-Based Modular Courses in Second Half of 2015
In support of lifelong learning and skills mastery, especially for those in their mid-careers, the universities will launch about 200 skills-based modular courses, and the polytechnics will also launch more than 100 modular courses at the diploma and post-diploma levels, in the second half of 2015. Singapore Citizens (SCs) enrolled in modular courses offered by the PSEIs can expect to receive the same level of subsidies as that for the equivalent part-time qualification. Individuals can also tap on the new SkillsFuture Credit, which will be given to all SCs aged 25 and above from 2016, to defray course fees.
These modular courses, covering key growth and priority sectors in Singapore, such as Advanced Manufacturing, Information and Communications Technology, Aviation, and Logistics, will offer more flexibility for working adults to develop new skills and deepen their skills in focused areas as their career progresses. More modular courses will be offered by ITE, the polytechnics, autonomous universities and SIM University (UniSIM) over the next few years.
More than 200 students received recognition for their creativity in animation and video production at the Schools Digital Media Awards (SDMA) 2015 presentation ceremony on 5 March 2015.
Co-organised by the Ministry of Education and Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Film and Media Studies, SDMA, in its 15th year, continues to inspire and discover young talents, attracting a total of 393 entries from more than 1700 students across 177 schools. A total of 54 awards (2 Platinum Awards, 10 Gold Awards, 16 Silver Awards and 26 Merit Awards) were given out at the award presentation ceremony graced by Mr Deakarajen V Sanmugan, Assistant Vice-President, Productions [Drama, Comedy and Factual], Mediacorp TV Pte Ltd.
In celebration of SG50, special themes such as “My Special Singapore/A Place in Our Heart” and “Hear Me Out - My Wish for Singapore” were introduced this year, attracting more than 170 entries from students who shared interesting stories and their personal aspirations for Singapore. This was especially so in the animation category where students fully leveraged on the richness of the medium to produce animations filled with anecdotes celebrating the history, rich cultural heritage and unique traits of Singaporeans.
Students impressed judges with their creative and original interpretations of the different themes such as “50”, “Do You Know?” and “Big Hearts, Helping Hands (Values in Action)”. The Platinum Award winning entries were of a particular high calibre, showing a sense of maturity in the usage of various cinematography and animation techniques by the students. The refreshing take and creative presentations of the theme “50” was another highlight of the Platinum Award entries.
The entries were judged on their content, creativity, engagement and technical quality.
The Schools Digital Media Awards is an annual competition for teachers and students of MOE-registered schools in genre categories such as animation, documentary, drama and advertisements. The competition aims to achieve the following:
- provide students with a platform to express themselves creatively through different media - video and animation
- provide teachers with a platform to engage in media production for educational purposes
- promote the values of teamwork and collaboration among students and teachers
- enhance the development of media literacy among students and teachers