After 20-Year Hiatus, U.S. to Rejoin International Exam - Education Week

For the first time in 20 years, American seniors will once again test their advanced mathematics and physics prowess against that of students in other countries next spring.

Ed. Dept. to Pilot Pairing-Up of Seniors, College Students - Education Week

The development of mentoring programs that pair college students with high schoolers is among the strategies the U.S. Department of Education intends to pilot as part of a new initiative to improve college completion for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Retaining and Reusing School Names

Ministry Of Education Feed - 04 August 2014

Schools may be relocated when there is low demand for school places in a particular estate, or when it is not feasible to upgrade the existing school facilities due to land and building constraints. To date, more than 120 schools have been relocated.

The name of a school is a part of the school identity. MOE has a School Naming Committee that oversees the naming process. In selecting the names of schools, the committee takes into account factors such as the identity of the school and the resonance of names with parents and the wider community.

Of the 120 schools that were relocated, over 80% have had their names retained. However, it not always possible to retain the name of the school. For instance, where the previous name was based on its location, it can result in confusion over its new location.

Where the previous school’s name is not used, efforts are made to document the history of the school and to display this at a heritage space in the new school building. This serves to inform and educate the new student cohorts of the school’s history and legacy. For example, Queenstown Primary School had previously merged with Birkhall Road School in 1984 and with Mei Chin Primary and Tanglin Primary in 2002. The school has a Heritage Corner to reflect its rich legacy by documenting the history of the other three schools.

Where possible and appropriate, MOE would consider reviving old school names for new schools, including names that reflect the commitment of the community towards education through building schools in the early years of Singapore’s history.

Teaching of Chinese Language in Schools

Ministry Of Education Feed - 04 August 2014

I would like to assure the Member that MOE reviews and enhances the teaching and learning of Mother Tongue Languages (MTL) regularly. Arising from the recommendations made by the MTL Review Committee in 2010, we have been making steady progress in implementing measures to strengthen the motivation and proficiency of our students in learning the MTL.

We have re-designed instructional materials and improved teaching approaches to focus more strongly on interactive skills using authentic contexts to make learning as real as possible for students. Through the use of more authentic resources that students come across regularly in their daily lives, such as advertisements, online articles and video clips, students can become more active users of the language. By engaging students in more interactive activities, such as group discussions, debates, and role-plays, our teachers have also injected more fun into learning and helped students to hone their communication skills.

We have also made greater use of technology to make the learning of the language more authentic, collaborative and personalised. For example, we have developed the iMTL Portal for students to engage in authentic and collaborative language tasks, such as commenting on a news video and giving feedback to each other’s oral presentation. Students can even practise reading of certain passages at home with the portal and receive instant feedback from the speech evaluation engine on their narration. However, MOE recognises that efforts by schools alone are insufficient to make the Mother Tongue Languages a living language. We have thus been working with parents and community partners to provide a more immersive environment outside school that is conducive to the learning of MTL.

For example, our schools organise the Mother Tongue Fortnights annually, in collaboration with community organisations and stakeholders. During the Mother Tongue Fortnights, a variety of cultural activities are organised to stimulate students’ interest in the mother tongue and help them to learn in novel and exciting ways.

We have also set up the three MTL Promotion Committees to help garner the support of the community in promoting the teaching and learning of MTL beyond schools. By reaching out to more than 100,000 people each year, the activities of the MTL committees have helped to ensure that MTL remains a living language for students outside schools.

MOE and schools also collaborate with external organisations such as Singapore Press Holdings, National Library Board, National Heritage Board and clan associations to conduct a variety of programmes to help students apply their MTL skills in fun and meaningful ways. For example, we have a programme with National Heritage Board that prepares students to serve as museum guides, so that they can make use of their mother tongue to helping student visitors appreciate more fully the museum exhibits.

MOE will continue to review and improve approaches to the teaching and learning of mother tongue to ensure that our students remain motivated and proficient in learning the language.

Housing Allowance for Foreign Teachers

Ministry Of Education Feed - 04 August 2014

Housing allowances are paid only to foreign teachers on Foreign Specialist Contracts. Foreign specialist contracts are offered to experienced foreign teachers who make up for shortages in unique expertise and add significant value to our programmes. They teach subjects such as the Humanities, Art and Music and foreign languages. They come from a range of countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and Japan.

MOE is very selective about the offering of such contracts. There were an average of about 46 such teachers during the period April 2012 to December 2013, but over the years, we have been judicious in offering remuneration packages with housing allowances to foreign teachers. As such, these numbers are reducing. Currently, there are 31 such teachers employed by the Ministry.

Salaries of top management in our AUs

Ministry Of Education Feed - 04 August 2014

In the last 5 years, an average of five staff in each year across all five AUs have had overall compensation packages of over $1 million. This number corresponds to around 0.03% of the 16,000 full-time staff and faculty members employed collectively by the five AUs.

The salaries of top management in foreign universities vary widely, with some far exceeding salary levels of top management here. However, we do not have the details of remuneration packages in other universities, and are therefore unable to make direct comparisons.

Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat at the 2014 Teaching Scholarship Presentation Ceremony

Ministry Of Education Feed - 01 August 2014

Today is a joyous occasion as we gather to witness another batch of scholars and teaching award holders commit yourselves to joining the noble profession of teaching. I extend my heartiest congratulations to our 204 scholarship and award recipients this year.

Building on the foundation of our Pioneer Educators

Last evening, I had the privilege of spending the evening with a few hundred pioneer educators at a tribute dinner for our pioneer school leaders. It was inspiring to be in a room full of legendary former teachers and principals, people who have done much to build our education system and indeed our nation. Each one of them has a rich story to tell - if you have any pioneer educators in your family or neighbourhood, I encourage you to ask them for their stories. You will learn a lot about how our people, and our nation, were built.

The impact of our pioneer teachers, not just on individual students, but on our nation as a whole, cannot be overstated. Singapore’s early days were a time when we needed desperately to create opportunities for Singaporeans, and at the same time give young Singaporeans the values, knowledge and skills to seize the opportunities. Don’t forget that our pioneer educators themselves were young, learning on the job, sometimes teaching in the afternoon what they had just learnt themselves in the morning. Some of them were younger than you are now, when they had already started teaching.

But our pioneer educators were resourceful and resilient. They rallied together to raise a nation with the limited resources available to them then. In so doing, they laid the foundations for our nation to climb out of poverty towards progress and opportunity, and for our people to step forward with grit and ability.

It gives me great pleasure to share with you a few of their stories.

At the pioneer generation tribute event at the Istana earlier this year, I met Mrs Niva Dutt. Mrs Dutt is 74 years old. She was one of the pioneer teachers at National Junior College (NJC), which was Singapore’s first junior college. Back in the 1960s, there were four different language streams at the secondary school level but English was the de-facto language of instruction at NJC. Knowing that her students from the non-English streams were struggling with the English language, Mrs Dutt took it upon herself to conduct her Economics lectures twice for these students to make sure they understood the concepts.

Mrs Dutt later assumed principalship at Cedar Girls’ Secondary School. She deeply cared for her students, and this was evident in the way she ran the school. To ensure that no child started their school day hungry, she started the breakfast scheme, providing biscuits and Milo for students who had no breakfast at home. Mrs Dutt’s belief that every child is unique and should be given the opportunity to develop in their areas of interest also led her to develop a wide range of co-curricular activities. Her dedication to the welfare of her students and to the holistic development of each child - these are values that our education fraternity continue to hold dear today.

Another remarkable pioneer educator is Mr Abdul Rahman, who taught students at Kampung Pasir Malay School at Pulau Tekong. Every school day, rain or shine, Mr Abdul Rahman had to ride a boat from Changi Jetty to Pulau Tekong before taking a kampung taxi to his school. Back then, instructional materials written in Malay were scarce. To increase the learning resources available to his students, Mr Abdul made the effort to translate materials written in English Language into Malay for his students.

The additional work never deterred Mr Abdul Rahman. He was not just happy to go the extra mile, it was the most natural thing for him and many other pioneer teachers like him, to do whatever was needed to serve the learning needs of their students. Mr Abdul Rahman started teaching at age 18. Now he is 72, but still going strong as an educator. He now teaches at Montfort Junior School.

We continue to have shining examples of educators today, following in the footsteps of our pioneers. Ms Lim Chye Ling is a Head of Department at Kent Ridge Secondary School. She received the President’s Award for Teachers in 2013. Like Mrs Dutt many years ago, she initiated a Breakfast Programme at Kent Ridge. Her reasons were slightly different. These days, the nutrition issues that Mrs Dutt faced are no longer urgent. Instead, for Ms Lim, the breakfast sessions are a good chance for students to interact with their form teachers, year heads and school leaders.

Another example is Mr Yap Boon Chien, who received the President’s Award for Teachers in 2012. One of his students, Steven, was eager to be the Robotics Club president. While Steven had the potential to be a leader, Mr Yap also saw that Steven had to build up his relationship with his peers. So Mr Yap made it a point to coach Steven that being a leader was about serving others. Under Mr Yap’s guidance, Steven learnt the importance of humility. Eventually, Steven won the respect of his peers and served as the President of the Robotics Club for two years. Steven was so touched by this experience that he nominated Mr Yap for the President’s Award for Teachers.

Today, Mr Yap is a Lead Teacher at Tanjong Katong Girls’ School, and he guides and leads both his students and colleagues, helping them to reach their fullest potential. Mr Abdul Rahman, who has been teaching for 54 years, worked on language, while Mr Yap worked on values - both, despite the difference of decades, knew their students well, and put in the time and sweat to develop the lessons that would most benefit their students.

These are just some of the stories of how our educators shape lives and mould a nation. In the course of a teacher’s professional life, he or she can easily affect tens of thousands of young minds. The legacy of our pioneer educators was to make sure that impact was one of strength and character. Their legacy passes on to you today.

Leaving Your Mark on Future Generations

Now, what do these stories mean for you? It is this: the next chapter of the story of Singapore education - indeed of Singapore itself - is for you to write. Through the years, no matter the changes in our advantages and challenges, our pioneer educators have told, and our educators today continue to tell, a rich and inspiring story. They pass on to you a tradition of resourcefulness, resilience, and responsibility; a mission of bringing out the best in every child; and a legacy of continually building and strengthening a nation to succeed against the odds.

Our pioneer educators thrived in a period of great uncertainty and volatility. The next fifty years for us will be similar - there will be a period of volalitilty, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity - but probably even more challenging because of the speed of technological changes and the speed of globalisation. In the midst of these challenges, it will be all the more important for teachers to help students develop the values and strength of character that will form their personal anchors in a world of flux.

Our pioneer teachers taught your parents to stand on their own feet and to stand tall. You will do the same, keeping the can-do spirit alive and strong. You will also need to teach your students to reach for the stars with one hand and extend a helping hand with the other. You can do this by helping them understand themselves well, appreciate their place in the world, and, most importantly, act on their love for and duty to their home and loved ones. I hope that, like your pioneer educators, you will see this as a call to action, as a challenge to innovate.

The next few years will be exciting years of discovery for you as you begin your tertiary education. Your minds will be stretched as you are exposed to the work of great minds and engage in conversations with your professors and fellow classmates. I encourage you to make the best use of these years. Deepen your knowledge, broaden your perspectives and reflect on the type of educator you want to become.

You are no longer just a student; you are on your way to becoming a future role model, a legacy-maker. Some of you are going to NIE next. I advise you to use this time to build your friendships and find your mentors. These are the people who will support and sustain you through your own teaching and learning journey.

It is a noble profession you will join. I hope you are very excited to join it. When you stand before your students one day soon, remember that your legacy will not be one of just brains. You will have a hand in the heart, soul, and spirit of your students. The torch passes now to you, to keep alive the nation-building legacy of our pioneers, to blaze new trails in your own pioneering spirit. The teacher’s privilege to impact many young lives comes with great responsibility. I am hopeful that you will uphold the trust that we all place on you.

Last night, there was one thing that the pioneer educators consistently told me. They said, “We were just focused on doing our job, and doing our job well. Now we look back and realise that we made a real impact.” Our pioneer educators were modest about their individual efforts. But a teacher’s impact on each young life is never small. And when you put all the work of our teachers together, they touched innumerable lives, and they collectively shaped the whole nation.

This is an important mission for all our young educators. I look forward to your great work ahead.

Thank you.

Celebrating The Legacy of Education Pioneers: More Than 700 Pioneers and Guests Experience "Back to School" Nostalgia at MOE's Pioneer Tribute Celebration

To celebrate our achievements in education and to recognise the contributions of our pioneers, more than 700 pioneers and guests were invited to a Pioneer Tribute Dinner organised by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on 31 July 2014, at Fairmont Singapore.

At the dinner, the pioneers were treated to a nostalgic “back to school” programme, reflecting a typical school day. These included a “school assembly” segment with a lively ballroom dance performance by Edgefield Primary School, a “principal’s address” by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, as well as a “history lesson” showcasing the milestone contributions of our pioneers to Singapore’s journey in education. The evening ended with a “music lesson” featuring community singing of a medley of familiar and favourite tunes such as “Burung Kakak Tua”, “You Are My Sunshine” and “Munnaeru Vaalibaa”.

In his address, Minister for Education paid tribute to the pioneers’ contribution and service to Singapore and Singapore’s education system. In particular, Minister Heng attributed three legacies to the education pioneers:

  • The first legacy: pioneers laid the firm foundation for our success in education, and in our nation.

  • The second legacy: their pioneering spirit, underpinned by the values of resourcefulness, resilience and responsibility, forged a generation of young Singaporeans to become good and worthy citizens of Singapore.

  • The third legacy: by their example, they inspired their students to join the noble profession of teaching, to carry the torch forward and to keep its flame burning bright.

The Pioneer Tribute Dinner flagged off MOE’s year-long Educators@SG50 celebrations and tribute to pioneer educators and staff who served in education during the post-independence years.


MOE begins its year-long celebration and series of activities, under the banner of Educators@SG50, which will include school-based pioneer tribute events, key MOE-organised events and activities for pioneer, senior and current educators, staff, students and members of the public, in line with Singapore50 celebrations. More details will be announced at a later date.

From 5 September 2014, MOE Heritage Centre will hold a series of Pioneer Tribute Tea Sessions for pioneers and retired senior educators and staff every Friday until 31 October 2014. They can visit the galleries with their families and friends to relive the Singapore Education Story, reminisce their years in school and share tales with fellow retired educators. The first session on 5 September, Teachers’ Day, will feature celebratory festivities including food stalls and performances. For more information, call 6838 1614 or visit

Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat at MOE’s Pioneer Tribute Dinner

Since taking on this role as Minister for Education, I’ve had many opportunities to make speeches to many distinguished audiences. But today I feel like a student back in school, standing in his Principal’s office!

As pioneer principals and educators, you have led schools from many stages much like the one I’m standing on. The difference was, you had hundreds of thousands of students sitting at your feet. Your words and deeds shaped an entire generation, including myself. I’m also very happy to see many former HQ specialists and admin staff with us this evening, and they played a very important role supporting our schools. It’s such a privilege to be addressing you this evening.

Paying Tribute to our Pioneers, Celebrating their Pioneering Spirit

Tonight’s event is the first in a series of tributes MOE and our schools have planned in recognition of the work of your generation - our pioneers. We have 14,000 pioneer educators on record, and we intend to reach out to each and every one through various celebratory events, through the efforts of both MOEHQ and schools.

Today’s dinner marks the start of these celebrations. We’d like to thank not just the pioneers here today, but also the rest of the 14,000 we have on our list. This series will continue into next year in line with the celebration of our nation’s Golden Jubilee with the SG50 activities. We can all look forward to a public event at the Gardens by the Bay, to tours and high tea at MOE’s Heritage Centre, as well as individual school celebrations, and an exciting public exhibition. So do continue to join us in all these events.

As I was preparing my notes for tonight, I thought hard about what I would say to such a distinguished group. You have such a rich store of life lessons, and it would be hard to do justice to what I’ve learnt.

Tonight, I met Mrs Mangalesvary Ambiavagar who helmed Raffles Girls’ Primary, among others. She recently celebrated her 100th birthday and that would make her the most senior educator in the room. Some of you may also know of her late husband Mr V Ambiavagar, the first Asian Headmaster of Raffles Institution.

Like each of you, the Ambiavagars paved the way for the good work that we can do in schools today. And it’s amazing to hear what it took to be a school leader then. Mrs Ambiavagar tells me that apart from running the school and teaching English classes, as a principal she also had to keep an eye on the canteen cooks to ensure that the children had meat in their dishes! She had to mix the milk powder in a particular way, and added a little sugar, to make sure the kids drank it. Nutrition was a key school issue then.

I have visited our MOE Heritage Centre twice, and spoken to many pioneer educators. Each time, I learn of rich stories and moving experiences. Let me try and distil the essence of these stories in terms of 3 legacies that you have left behind:

The First Legacy - Foundation Laying in the Early Years

Professor Gopinathan and Associate Professor Goh Chor Boon’s monograph of 2006 titled “The Development of Education in Singapore since 1965”, recalled the context of those years when many in this room were still teachers and school principals.

What struck me most was how challenging that period was, at a time when we were a fledgling nation, a fragmented people, trying to find our feet. The monograph describes vividly the social, economic and political context for your work. The things we take for granted today - political stability, racial harmony, economic progress, were hanging in the balance, when we found ourselves, in 1965, quite unexpectedly, an independent country, and in charge of our own destiny.

Within months of our independence, our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew spoke on several occasions on the critical role of education to Singapore’s future - a future where our young forge a multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore, become rugged and adaptable, and have the loyalty and leadership traits to take Singapore forward. And the challenge was to do all these amidst great uncertainty, with meagre resources.

Mdm Fong Yuet Kwai, then Principal of Nan Hua Primary, had this to share of that period in our history: “There were a lot of uncertainties post-independence, and we didn’t know whether we could survive. We had no natural resources, no national defence. There was a lot of unemployment and people still struggling to have a house to live in. We were suddenly alone, and did not know where our future lay. But we knew we had to make it work.”

Many of you instinctively knew, as Mdm Fong, did, that it was up to you, to make it work, because, as the Chinese saying goes, 无国,无家, which means ‘no country, no home’. From this dedication to the mission of nation building, and this determination ‘to make it work’ despite the odds, our pioneer educators left us the first legacy - the foundation of our success.

Education was for all and it was the means to raise families from poverty. Our leaders and our people fought for independence from colonial rule so as to build a fair and just society. Meritocracy would give each child a fair shot at the future, no matter where his starting point.

We started literally with building good foundations. In the early years, we went on a construction spree - in the 1960s, we were completing one school a month. And to speed things up, they were done cookie-cutter style - they all looked like the one at MOE’s Heritage Centre, the site of the former Permaisura Primary school.

I was told that Principals who were rotated between these “H” design schools could find their offices blindfolded once they came through the entrance. They were always in the same spot in the layout!

But it was not only the bricks and mortar that was important. We had to forge common values and a national identity.

Together with our national curriculum and our bilingual policy - to study English and a Mother Tongue Language. Getting this language policy right in our classrooms was critical for a young nation with many ethnicities. Failure to do so often led to strife and even armed conflict as you can see in many parts of the world.

To enable all our children to have a better chance of success, we looked into helping different groups of children learn at a pace they could manage, just so that everyone could get good jobs when they left school.

We did this by creating different streams, to help different students, with different learning styles learn in the best way possible.

In doing so, we could keep more children in school, for longer. The dropout rate fell from 6% in the 1970s for the primary schools to just 0.07% in 1997. At the secondary level, the rate was even more dramatic - from 13% to 0.99%.

With a stable system and foundations in place, we could give school leaders more autonomy in the 1980s so that they could also innovate with curriculum and student development programmes.

To do that we had to groom and develop highly skilled educators who could then help us focus on nurturing creative, independent learners. Standardised curriculum and materials of an earlier era became more customised to the needs of the schools, and even the child. New specialised schools in maths, science, sports and the arts were set up. We have moved to a more flexible system, catering to more children with more choices.

Despite the evolution, one objective has held constant through the last 50 years, and it is to give every child a chance to learn and a fair shot at getting ahead. Opportunities were not reserved for the wealthy and connected. Indeed, our schools helped each child reach for the stars.

Our pioneer teachers played a pivotal role in shaping our society and nation by instilling common values and providing common experiences in school for every generation. We remember your legacy, because we are living it.

You were key to the education of our nation. Your early trials and triumphs in laying the foundations for a sound, progressive education system, steadily shaped the nation, one student at a time.

Over and above the countless schools you set up, the HQ teams you led, the essays and mathematical sums marked, the science experiments and basketball games conducted in labs and on fields all across our island, what has been your most important work must be the generations of children who have been shaped and nurtured by you.

This could not have happened without good teachers to begin with. Between 1959 and 1968, the teaching force almost doubled from over 10,000 to over 19,000 to fill the more than 130 new schools that sprang up in that time.

But in order to have good teachers in our schools, there had to be a systematic way of training and developing them. So before there were teachers, there were teachers of teachers.

In this domain, Dr Ruth Wong was an extraordinary pioneer. Widely regarded as a forward-thinking Singapore educator, Ruth Wong was the founding director of the then Institute of Education, the precursor to our National Institute of Education today. She was also the first woman principal of the Teachers’ Training College (TTC) whilst at the same time serving as Director of Research in MOE.

We recruited a high number of teachers, but to get our teachers trained, we innovated with part-time teaching programmes at the Teachers’ Training College. Many of you will remember training in the morning and teaching in the afternoon or vice versa. How challenging it must have been!

The establishment of IE improved teacher education significantly. In many ways, Dr Wong was advanced for her time, as this quote by her shows: “A teacher who is not an inquirer, nor a problem-solver, is hardly likely to provide the right intellectual climate for his pupils to ask constructive questions or develop critical ability.”

This insight that it takes skilled teachers to bring out the best in students helped establish a new curriculum for teacher education with a twin focus of building the teacher’s professional competence as well as the student’s personal growth. Under the leadership of Dr Ruth Wong, the concept of teacher training evolved into teacher education, which was an important step in raising the status of teachers both academically and professionally.

The Second Legacy - The Pioneering Spirit

I have heard many rousing stories. But at the heart of every story, I see three key values which underpinned this pioneering spirit. Ho Peng, our DGE, has reminded me that these are the 3Rs - not Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic, but rather Resourcefulness, Resilience, and Responsibility.

Resourcefulness - Making Do With Very Little

Today, education benefits from a large chunk of the government’s budget; we take up 20% of the Budget, totalling almost $11.5 billion second only to defence. But for a young nation 50 years ago, that was unthinkable.

Much as we had ambitions to haul a nation out of poverty, there were many other competing priorities.

I am always amazed to hear how enterprising our principals were back then - from sourcing extra training opportunities for the teachers, to collecting old doors to set up classrooms because we could not build enough schools fast enough.

As Principal of Pei Cai Secondary then, Mr Cheong Heng Yuen even walked the corridors of the neighbourhood flats on weekends, just so he could publicise his school to the families in the neighbourhood. There were no fancy banners or glossy brochures to sell his programmes. But in five short years, he turned around a floundering school of 300 students to 800 in enrolment. Mr Cheong gave new meaning to walking the talk!

Of course, where we could, the Ministry built, innovated and invested. We hired teachers. We developed curriculum. We wrote our own textbooks and published them for students. We spared no expense in building schools to keep up with the baby boom.

Over time, schools also had state of the art technology to keep them relevant to the times. In the days before YouTube, we broadcast our lessons on TV in the 1960s and many of you would still recall Miss Tan See Lai who drove the ETV productions back then. I had a chat with Miss Tan earlier, and assured her that my school then was most conscientious in getting us to watch every episode of ETV, and I enjoyed it tremendously. It was such a treat to be in the ETV room, as it was called.

When computers came into the picture in the 1990s we had to ration them and offered it first to our students from our Normal stream because they could benefit from it most. Today, we have moved past three phases of the ICT Masterplan, and all our schools have come a long way in using education technology in meaningful, relevant ways.

To help students acquire the scientific spirit of inquiry, we built science labs in all schools. But where we had little money or resources, many of you just put your minds to work. Ms Nanda Bandara, for instance, sank a bathtub into the garden to create an eco-pond for her students in Haig Girls’ School.

When we needed international experts to help us, we invited them. As I was speaking with Dr Ang Wai Hoong earlier, who was then Division Director, CDIS, she said that in those days, no one could teach us how to write text books, and we had to figure out a way of doing that. To then, at that time, apply the latest thinking of how the brain learns, to making sure that textbooks were written in a lively way - no more than 10 minutes of material, interspersed with plenty of activities. We had to get others to help to train us. Dr Ang said we got renowned American educationist, Madeline Hunter - to train us for next to nothing. We did all this to ensure that our students had access to standardised, quality materials to study from. Who would have guessed that today we produce textbooks that are sought after the world over, including the United States?

Each of these stories, and the many more that I would love to hear from all you, speaks of one vital value - the resourcefulness to make the most out of what little we had, driven by a mission to give the best possible education to our children. Our pioneer educators were improvising and learning as you were doing. Our younger educators, and all of us, must learn that can-do, can-think spirit.

Resilience - Never Say Die

We knew our teachers were the key to our successes. And this is why we had to empower and develop them as professionals. Certainly, at one point, the Ministry was recruiting 16-year-olds straight out of school, and sometimes even the exam halls. Hands up those of you who were recruited at 16 years old!

From your stories, I know those were tough times for many 16-year-old trainee teachers. Training was demanding. Because of the massive shortage of teachers, most were deployed almost immediately and as a teacher you had to juggle teaching in the morning, and training in the afternoon, putting you out for a full day, each day … for three whole years.

And even after that, teachers had to constantly learn on the job. When we needed technical teachers, some of you like Mr Jumaat Masdawood, one of our earliest superintendents, had to study woodwork or metalwork in the evenings, after putting in a full day in school. Just so he could teach the students.

And when many students switched to English language streams, subject teachers who were teaching in mother tongues had to learn enough English to make the switch too. Many of you also helped to maintain the ethos and relevance of various schools, including in some of our Chinese schools. Earlier this evening I met Mdm Kau Ah Suo, who was principal of Nan Chiau High, and Mr Chew Peng Leng, former principal of Sin Min High, in fact Mr Chew is still very much involved with Xinmin Secondary School.

When we tried to start up school bands for Extra Curricular Activities as they were called back then, teachers in their 30s went back to school to learn an instrument, just so they could lead the children. Imagine that.

I recently met Mdm Lau Kum Leng, a docent at our Heritage Centre, who described how all teachers also had to learn footdrills during their training - and like me, how she was marching out of step with the right arm and right foot stepping out together.

The sacrifice you made was tremendous. I’ve heard how our teachers were deployed to the Island schools of Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin. Each trip required a bumboat ride, and depending on which school it was, you’d have to make a bumpy ride on a jalopy over muddy roads, or a 2 km trek in on foot. Earlier this evening I met Mrs Tay, our Inspector of Schools, and she was describing how she took a bumboat to Pulau Ubin to inspect the schools, and how in the outlying areas, pigs came into the classroom as she was inspecting the classrooms.

You may have led schools with different mottos, but it’s clear your collective motto then was “Never say die”. In those days before we had a Teachers’ Creed, you knew — and lived — a common creed: which was to “Give our best to every child”. In fact, I heard an interesting story this evening, not just every child in Singapore, Mr Balagopal was also posted to Christmas Island.

And all your efforts paid off. We see how you prepared students with the critical, survival skills to face a fast evolving and developing economy. Without your agility we could not have responded to the demands made of our young nation.

And by your examples, the schools you led shaped our approach to life at large and helped to develop a resilience and ruggedness in our approach to our problems as a people. It made us a can-do people, with a strong work ethic, sought after across the world, dedicated to individual excellence but also to a duty to our fellow man.

Responsibility - Duty of Care for Students

Now none of this would have succeeded if our pioneer educators did not hold steadfast to your belief in duty of care for the students. This sense of duty translated often into a deep sense of responsibility to the children and their holistic development.

For Mr C Kunalan, whom I met at the Istana earlier this year, his vivid memories were of the DIY days. It was an era of do-it-yourself - you just roll up your sleeves and get it done. He shared how a senior colleague at his first school, a Mr Lai at Tiong Bahru Primary School, in his first year there, showed him how to draw a 300 meter track on the school field using pegs and strings and a clever application of the Pythagoras Theorem, Circle Theorem, and the concept of Pi. For the next 6 years, Kunalan and Mr Lai would mark up the field in this manner every year for the school.

Today, our students train on fields and tracks that enable them to develop a love for sports and outdoor activity, and at the same time, encourage them to be the best athlete and sportsman they can be. And our teachers are as dedicated to helping them do that, except they need not draw the running track anymore!

There are also wonderful stories of how our pioneer school leaders were brave and focused in making the right decisions for their students and their school.

Many friends commented that I was very bold to abolish school ranking and to stop the naming of top PSLE scorers. I thought it was, until I learnt that many years back, Ms Nanda Bandara, as Principal of Haig Girls’ School, did it even more boldly: she banished class rankings despite resistance from parents and teachers and let go of teachers who refused to change their practices.

This meant going up against some of her most experienced teachers - a risky and scary move for her, a 36-year-old teacher who had literally become a principal overnight. She saw that ranking had made students unnecessarily competitive, and insisted that good teaching meant more than just passing exams,

This was a principal who was not afraid to do things differently and responsibly as long as it was aligned to the values she held for teaching.

These stories I’ve told tonight will hopefully remind us of the timeless and timely values you represent as pioneers. I am sure there will be many more such stories. We will remember:

  • your resourcefulness in seeing possibilities and getting a lot done with very little resources at your disposal;

  • We admire your resilience and grit, in the face of great odds, as our young country was building a nation from scratch.

  • And we will continue to be inspired by your deep sense of responsibility to the children, soldiering on come rain or shine, because - as many of you tell us simply - “our children and our staff needed us”.

Our educators today continue to hold steadfast to these same values and mission in bringing out the best in every child.

The Third Legacy - Sending Arrows into the Future

I’d like to move on finally to a third and critically important legacy you have left us. This is your role in nurturing generations of teachers, who were inspired by you to join this noble profession. I was very happy to hear that many of you this evening were talking about your principals, and many of our current principals were talking about principals of these principals, all in the same room.

There’s a short verse from a poem by one of our young teachers, Ms Ann Ang, titled “Never Alone”. There’s a copy of the poem on every table. Her poem beautifully captures how, like arrows into the future, great teachers inspire others to want to pass on the same inspiration. It ends with this verse:

So today, let your students say:
That each of us is an arrow into the future
Inspired by your hope and belief
That we rest under trees that you planted in school
That your voice is a lamp for the soul
That as the years past, and students grow up,
The song you began, we still sing in our hearts
That some of us teach, because of you.

Indeed, education is never ending work, and more will follow in your footsteps - purposeful, determined to serve and nurture the youngest amongst us in this country. Under the guidance of your Directors of Education and Director Generals of Education, Mr John Yip, Mr Wee Heng Tin, Miss Seah Jiak Choo and now Miss Ho Peng, we’ve witnessed how you’ve continually built on the waves of good work that came before. This is this how good leadership should be. And this is the mark of a true fraternity at work.

We stand on the shoulders of giants and through our collective hands we hold the future of the nation, and build on the firm foundations you have laid. Those same values you stood for still hold true even if the tools to teach and the programmes we roll out may have changed.

In nine days, as we celebrate our nation’s 49th year of independence, do so knowing that as our pioneers, you played a big part in making all this possible.

Your first legacy laid the firm foundation for our success in education, and in our nation. Your second legacy - your pioneering spirit, underpinned by the values of resourcefulness, resilience and responsibility, forged a generation of young Singaporeans to become good and worthy citizens of Singapore. Your third legacy is to inspire many of your students to join the noble profession of teaching, to carry the torch forward and to keep its flame burning bright.

The Prime Minister was delighted to hear that I was meeting all of you this evening and he wanted me to convey his best regards to you — for dedicating your lives to nurturing and providing a quality education to generations of Singaporeans!

So I invite us to rise in tribute to our pioneers as I and my colleagues in the Ministry of Education salute what you have done for Singaporeans and for Singapore’s schools.

To our pioneers! We take inspiration from your journey as we continue to build an education system that honours your pioneering spirit.

Thank you.

Tensions Roil in Indiana Over NCLB Waiver - Education Week

A new critique of Indiana's efforts to maintain its exemptions from the No Child Left Behind requirements, written by top staff to Gov. Mike Pence, is widening a rift between state education leaders as federal officials near a decision on the waiver.

Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah at The BCA-Industry Built Environment Scholarship Award Ceremony

Let me wish everybody a very good afternoon. I am especially pleased to be able to join you at today’s BCA-Industry Built Environment Scholarship Award Ceremony to share the achievements of the many bright young minds that are seated in this hall. I would like to congratulate all the scholarship recipients.

A sector that offers good career prospects

Today marks yet another milestone for the Scholarship Awards with a record number of 186 undergraduate and diploma scholarships to be given out. Each and every scholarship recipient here will contribute to the talent pool that we need to support the strong growth that the built environment sector is now experiencing.

The sustained growth, coupled with our ongoing efforts to introduce technology and transform existing processes, offers many exciting job opportunities for new entrants. The nature of work is evolving to become more knowledge-based and design intensive. The sector is also pushing ahead to be at the forefront of innovation in many areas. Besides environmental sustainability, I understand that BCA is expanding the Research & Development (R&D) focus to include construction productivity with the enhancement of the existing $5-million Innovation Grant (iGrant). I believe this is a step in the right direction to enable the built environment sector to transform itself into a knowledge-intensive and technology-driven industry in years to come.

Indeed, the built environment sector has moved beyond bricks and mortar, adopting advanced and productive construction methods like off-site prefabrication and on-site mechanisation. With these, work sites would become cleaner, safer and quieter.

This year, there is a record of 54 built environment firms participating in the scholarship programmes. The built environment sector is looking for young people with the aptitude and right attitude. I’m glad to note that, there are as many as 11 industry firms that are each awarding scholarships to 3 or more students this year. In time, the built environment sector, with the expanding pool of talents, would be led by progressive firms and a competent workforce to steer it to greater heights.

Many progression opportunities, regardless of starting point

The built environment sector offers many good jobs that are accompanied by many progression pathways, both upwards and laterally. For a start, BCA’s comprehensive suite of scholarship and sponsorship programmes provides support for progression across the ITE, Diploma and Undergraduate levels.

In terms of upward career progression, built environment professionals like engineers and architects could pursue professional registration to become Professional Engineers and Registered Architects, gaining greater professional standing. It should be clear, however, that progression is ultimately based on skills and competencies. In the case of Professional Engineers and Registered Architects, the academic qualifications required for accreditation and the competencies required for the job are highly aligned. In other tracks within the Built Environment sector, such as project and site management, competencies built on the job and through training courses support good progression prospects even without the need for further formal academic qualifications. The crux of the matter is that regardless of track, it is the skills, competencies and attitude that are what ultimately will drive success and progression.

In terms of lateral progression, it was just announced last month that environmental engineering graduates with interest in civil and structural engineering works are now given the flexibility of taking up roles as Resident Engineers by way of attending short bridging courses on structural engineering.

Similarly, for those who are keen on areas such as green buildings and Building Information Modelling, or BIM in short, there are various specialist certificate courses to train and build up these in-demand competencies.

Take the case of a BIM modeller for example. By building up his competencies through short BIM courses, he could progress through the ranks to become a BIM specialist, BIM manager, and even a BIM director one day. BCA has shared with me that those who are equipped with these industry-recognised certificates are able to progress based on their competencies rather than academic qualifications per se. We should encourage more of such progression pathways.

It pays to deepen your skills first

And if you are like Ang Kai Zhi, a Diploma Scholar, who sees value in working first to gain experience and is planning to hone his skills upon graduation, you would be pleased to know that BCA has recently launched a sponsorship programme which supports in-service personnel to upgrade themselves through part-time degree studies, as the next step to further training in relevant skills when they decide to do so.

The sponsorship programme provides attractive co-funding to firms which support their employees’ aspirations to pursue part-time studies at local universities while continuing to deepen their skills at the workplace. Chia Siang Chuan, one of the eleven inaugural recipients of the BCA-Industry Built Environment Part-time Undergraduate Sponsorship programme, is a positive example that mid-career upgrading opportunities will not be dampened if one has a positive mind-set and the firm support of one’s employer.

Equipped with a National Technical Certificate Grade 2 from ITE, Siang Chuan started working after completing his National Service. He then went on to obtain an Industrial Technician Certificate from ITE during employment. In 2010, he decided to further broaden his skills by taking up a part-time diploma course. Recognising Siang Chuan’s capacity to assume other responsibilities, his employer, ID Architects Pte Ltd, encouraged Siang Chuan to continue upgrading himself. Backed by this strong support, Siang Chuan, currently a senior architectural assistant, has embarked on a part-time degree course in Construction Management. He is confident that the course would help deepen his understanding and skills in project management and enhance his competency to take on larger roles at work. Progressive firms, like Siang Chuan’s employer, are ahead of the curve because they upgrade and retain their local employees at the same time.

Levelling up human resource practices

Ultimately, the efforts to bring in talent must be complemented by the firms’ good HR practices to make the sector a workplace of choice, as well as to retain employees. Increasingly, employees will be looking at whether companies have adopted practices which will make a difference to their lives and career aspirations, such as proper performance management and training programmes, performance-based remuneration focussed on skills and competencies, as well as a formal awards programme to recognise individual or group efforts at work. On this note, I would like to applaud the joint efforts and commitment of BCA and the key industry associations to raise standards of HR practices across with the recent launch of the HR pledge in May this year.

I understand that BCA is also planning to work with built environment firms, including sponsoring firms and those who have participated in the HR pledge, to offer structured internships to students in built environment courses. As part of the ongoing Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (or ASPIRE), we have found that better, structured internships help to strengthen applied learning and enable students to gain a deeper insight to the sectors they work for. Enhancing the internship experience would also increase the chances of students joining the sector after graduation, and enable them to be ready to take on the challenges on the job.

ASPIRE is a review committee that has been set up, chaired by myself, under MOE, to look at applied study in the polytechnics and ITE. The report will be out soon in the next one to two months. The recommendations will have relevance for those who are studying in the polytechnics or ITE, or who have graduated. It also will have relevance for employers and industries, such as the Built Environment sector, because we are looking to see which industries we can work with as pilot industries to implement some of the ASPIRE recommendations. Broadly, ASPIRE is about helping students to make the right choices, engendering opportunities for our students, and encouraging employers to provide progression pathways not only for students who have just graduated but also for those who have been working for some time. It is really about making sure that there are real skills tied to work, recognising that whatever you do has value, and giving people the opportunity to go further based on what they have learnt and the competencies that they have acquired.

For Undergraduate Scholar, Han Jia Min, her involvement in a construction project during her internship has helped her appreciate the relevance and value of what she learnt in school. The positive internship experience has also reaffirmed her choice to pursue a career as a civil and structural engineer. I understand that she is eagerly looking forward to be part of the action when she graduates next year.

A sector of choice

To the industry sponsors present here, I would like to extend my appreciation, on behalf of the government, for stepping forward to partner BCA in developing the professional and competent workforce needed to lead and transform the built environment sector. I look forward to your continued support in years to come.

To all scholarship recipients, congratulations again on your achievements. The built environment sector promises exciting times ahead for you, providing opportunities to break new grounds and be part of the shaping force of a future-ready built environment. I wish all of you a fruitful and rewarding journey in your careers.

Thank you.

Students Taking Ownership And Play a Part in Keeping Singapore Clean

Launch of the Keep Singapore Clean Movement in Schools as part of Character and Citizenship Education

The Keep Singapore Clean Movement in Schools1, a student-driven and school-supported effort for students to take ownership of the cleanliness of their school and the environment, was launched by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at Woodgrove Secondary School on 29 July 2014.

Through Character and Citizenship Education (CCE), students learn about the values of responsibility and care. The Keep Singapore Clean Movement in Schools will allow students to put these values into practice - to be responsible for keeping the places they frequent clean, such as the classroom, the school compound, or common areas in the neighbourhood, and thus show care for the people living and working around them. Schools will be supported by the Public Hygiene Council (PHC) in this movement.

Several schools already have students adopting spaces within the school that they are committed to keep clean. Marsiling Primary School students are responsible for the cleanliness of their own classroom and common areas in the school. Schools like Endeavour Primary School are using cleaning routines to instil good hygiene habits in their students. Some schools have also adopted public spaces, for instance, Damai Secondary School, where students keep the waterways clean.

With the launch of the Keep Singapore Clean Movement in Schools, schools will be coming on board, giving their students the chance to propose ideas to keep the school and neighbourhood clean, put their ideas into action and carry them out on a sustained basis to cultivate good habits. Mr Heng Swee Keat said, “Through the Keep Singapore Clean Movement in Schools, students can learn to take ownership of our community spaces and our Singapore. Students can become role models and advocates of a clean Singapore to their classmates, family members and people in the community. It will help our students develop empathy and responsibility, a sense of belonging and commitment to the community, and a deep understanding of our interdependence.”

Values in Action (VIA)

The Keep Singapore Clean Movement in Schools will be part of Values in Action (VIA) in schools. VIA is a hands-on learning experience integral to CCE. Students develop a sense of social responsibility through identifying community spaces they are concerned about and brainstorm practical ways in which they and the community can keep such spaces clean. They will carry out their projects, reflect on the outcomes and keep improving their efforts. There will be a showcase of schools’ efforts at the National Environment Agency’s Clean and Green Singapore Schools Carnival in November 2014.

There are three ways students can contribute in VIA:

  • Action - Students take action to improve a situation they care about.
  • Awareness - Students raise awareness so that others may learn about an important issue or concern in the community.
  • Advocacy - Students inspire or influence others to make a difference.
Family Time

A key feature of the new CCE curriculum for primary schools is the Family Time segment. Family Time reinforces what is taught in school at home through suggested activities for parents and children to carry out together. Some of these suggestions involve families talking about how they can make a contribution to the cleanliness of Singapore. For example, on a visit to the park together, parents could discuss with their child how he / she could play a part to keep the park clean and green so that everyone can enjoy it.

Partnership with the Public Hygiene Council (PHC)

The PHC will support schools in implementing the Keep Singapore Clean Movement in Schools by providing various resources, as well as advice on areas which could be potential littering hotspots. Litter-picking toolkits will also be available for schools. These toolkits, comprising tongs, gloves and other equipment, can be used to support various cleanliness-related projects proposed by the students. All schools have received a PHC “Bright Spots for Schools” Guide in July 2014 to kick-start their efforts and help them understand how spaces can be transformed into Bright Spots.

In 2015, the PHC will also be providing every Primary 4 student with a checklist to reflect on their habits and how these affect the cleanliness of the environment as part of the Family Time activities. Every Primary 5 student will also be given a postcard for them to write to their Primary 1 to Primary 4 juniors and encourage them to practise good habits that demonstrate care for the environment. These resources will help students advocate a caring and responsible Singapore.

Mr Liak Teng Lit, Chairman of the PHC, said, “Keeping Singapore clean requires a concerted effort from all. With the strong support from the students and their parents, I believe we are a step closer to being a truly clean Singapore, not just a cleaned one.”

  1. This was first mentioned by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at the 7th Teachers’ Conference on 3 June 2014.

Annex A

Annex B

Outstanding Performance by Singapore at The 2014 International Science and Mathematics Competitions

The Ministry of Education (MOE) congratulates our students for their excellent performance at the International Young Physicists’ Tournament as well as the International Olympiads for Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Informatics and Physics in July 2014.

27th International Young Physicists’ Tournament (IYPT)

The Singapore team clinched the 1st position in a field of 28 countries and was awarded the Gold medal at the 27th IYPT held in Shrewsbury, United Kingdom, from 3 to 10 July 2014.

The Singapore team comprised of Phyllis Poh Hui-Li and Joel Tan Shi Quan from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, as well as Li Bingjian, Tan Yan Quan and Shen Yu Jun from Raffles Institution.

The Singapore delegation was led by Dr Yeo Ye from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Mr Sze Guan Kheng from Raffles Institution and Ms Joy Wong, Curriculum Planning Officer from MOE.

25th International Biology Olympiad (IBO)

The Singapore team obtained three Gold medals and one Silver medal at the 25th IBO held in Bali, Indonesia from 6 to 13 July 2014. Singapore was placed 2nd in a field of 238 student participants from 61 countries.

The Gold medallists are Qu Xinyi from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, Cleon Kho Yu Xuan from Hwa Chong Institution and Raphael Soh Qin from Raffles Institution. The Silver medallist is Timothy Sim Soon-Song from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).

The Singapore delegation was led by Dr Beverly Goh and Dr Shawn Lum from the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Dr Ng Ngan Kee from the Department of Biological Sciences, NUS, Mr Jin Chentian, IBO alumni member from the Singapore Institute of Biology and Mr Tan Hong Kim, Curriculum Resource Development Specialist from MOE.

46th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO)

The Singapore team received two Gold medals and two Silver medals at the 46th IChO held in Hanoi, Vietnam, from 20 to 29 July 2014. Singapore was placed joint 2nd with China, Taiwan, Ukraine and Vietnam, in a field of 291 student participants from 75 countries.

This year’s Top IChO Student was awarded to Sun Jiarui from Raffles Institution. The other Gold medallist is Chen Xi from Raffles Institution. The Silver medallists are Brandon Tan Kai Jie from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science and Wong Wen Jun Lawrence from Raffles Institution.

The Singapore delegation was led by Mr Fung Fun Man and Dr Chui Sin Yin from the Department of Chemistry, National University of Singapore, Dr Li Wei from the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, and Mr Chok Yew Keong, Curriculum Planning Officer from the Ministry of Education.

55th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO)

The Singapore team clinched three Gold medals, two Silver medals and one Bronze medal at the 55th IMO held in Cape Town, South Africa, from 3 to 13 July 2014. Singapore was placed 8th in a field of 101 countries and 560 participants.

The Gold medallists are Liu Yijia, Sheldon Kieren Tan and Tan Siah Yong of Raffles Institution. The Silver medallists are Ling Yan Hao and Dylan Toh Shan Hong of NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, and the Bronze medallist is David Lin Kewei of Raffles Institution.

The Singapore delegation was led by Associate Professor Wong Yan Loi from the Department of Mathematics, National University of Singapore, and Mr Lu Shang-Yi of Raffles Institution. Associate Professor Tay Tiong Seng from the Department of Mathematics, NUS, who was one of the chief trainers, was also part of the delegation.

26th International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI)

The Singapore team received two Gold medals and one Silver medal at the 26th IOI held in Taipei, Taiwan, from 13 to 20 July 2014. Singapore was placed 7th together with Bulgaria in a field of 315 student participants from 82 countries.

The Gold medallists are Ranald Lam Yun Shao and Feng Jiahai from Raffles Institution. The Silver medallist is Theng Kwang Hui Mark from Hwa Chong Institution.

The Singapore delegation was led by Associate Professor Tan Sun Teck from the School of Computing, NUS, and Ms Goh Keng Wah from Hwa Chong Institution.

45th International Physics Olympiad (IPhO)

The Singapore team obtained three Gold medals, two Silver medals and the ‘Best in Experiment’ Award at the 45th IPhO held in Astana, Kazakhstan, from 13 to 21 July 2014. Singapore was placed 5th in a field of 374 student participants from 85 countries.

The Gold medallists are Wang Fan, Francis from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, Chan Jau Tung and Lim Yong Hui from Raffles Institution (Junior College). The Silver medallists are Gideon Lee from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science and Jee Kai Yen from Raffles Institution (Junior College). The ‘Best in Experiment’ award winner is Wang Fan, Francis from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science.

The Singapore delegation was led by Associate Professor Rajdeep Singh Rawat and Associate Professor Lee Choon Keat, Paul from the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Mr Wong Chu Lin from Raffles Institution (Junior College).

A Joint Effort

Our students’ participation in these International Science competitions is a joint effort between MOE and the following organisations:

  • DSO National Laboratories;
  • Institute of Physics, Singapore;
  • National University of Singapore;
  • National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University;
  • Singapore Institute of Biology;
  • Singapore Mathematical Society; and
  • Singapore National Institute of Chemistry.

Background for International Young Physicists’ Tournament

The IYPT is a competition for students between 15 and 18 years old to solve complicated scientific problems in teams. Participants apply the actual scientific methods used by real physicists to solve problems often related to phenomena that confront us in our everyday lives. Starting from research, they proceed on to modelling, then experimentation and finally an oral defence of their proposed solutions to the given problems before experts and peers. The IYPT requires its participants to demonstrate the abilities to work in teams and to manage uncertainties and complexities. See the Annex for more details of the conduct of IYPT.

Members of the team representing Singapore at the IYPT were selected from the Singapore Young Physicists’ Tournament (SYPT), a local competition modelled after the IYPT. The SYPT provides opportunities to develop our budding physicists and promotes a new and exciting way in the learning of physics.

Background for International Olympiads

The International Olympiads for Science bring together the best and brightest students from around the world, challenging and stimulating their minds in the spirit of competition. Through rigorous tests of theoretical knowledge, students demonstrate their mastery of scientific concepts. Their experimental skills are also put to the test in the Science Olympiads.

The Olympiads are thus global platforms to stretch some of our most able students in Science. By pitting their skills and knowledge against international peers, not only would our students be exposed to an enriching learning experience, they would also be motivated to strive for excellence in the international arena.

Annex - Brief Description of The Conduct of The International Young Physicists’ Tournament

Speech (in Chinese with English Translation) by Mr Heng Swee Keat at the Kampung Senang Charity and Education Foundation’s 15th Anniversary Celebrations and Charity Dinner

I am happy to join you this evening.

Fifteen years ago, James Low and Joyce Lye left successful corporate careers to fulfil their lifelong dream to give back to society. Together with Dr Swee Yong Peng and like-minded friends, they set up Kampung Senang Charity and Education Foundation in Tampines.

In their vision, Kampung Senang would revive the neighbourly kampung spirit of early Singapore, and care for the community, living beings and Mother Earth. They adopted the twin motto of Caring for Environment, Caring for People.

In its early years, Kampung Senang concentrated on an Elderly Care Centre and a Student Care Centre. It provided immediate relief and hope to the needy and chronically ill. Thanks to founding board member Mr Lau Meng Cher’s donation of a recycling truck, Kampung Senang started recycling mobility aids and hospital beds. This project won Best Volunteer Initiative Award from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre.

Today, through a range of programmes that encourage healthy living, Kampung Senang inspires people to take care of themselves and the environment. Kampung Senang’s thinking is this: when you can take good care of yourself, you are healthy and happy to give back and help others too. Joyce, James, you and everyone involved in Kampung Senang can be very proud of what you have achieved. To Kampung Senang’s management committee members, staff, volunteers, supporters, donors, and supporting corporations - thank you very much. Your impact on real lives is priceless. More importantly, your story shows that anyone of us can make a difference, if we make the commitment to care for others. On the occasion of your 15th birthday, let me encourage you to step into the future with confidence, with love, and with lots of the kampung spirit. You are an important member of our kampung - all of us thank you for your good work and look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you.

Thank you.

Speech (in Chinese with English Translation) by Mr Heng Swee Keat at the Kampung Senang Charity and Education Foundation’s 15th Anniversary Celebrations and Charity Dinner

I am happy to join you this evening.

Fifteen years ago, James Low and Joyce Lye left successful corporate careers to fulfil their lifelong dream to give back to society. Together with Dr Swee Yong Peng and like-minded friends, they set up Kampung Senang Charity and Education Foundation in Tampines.

In their vision, Kampung Senang would revive the neighbourly kampung spirit of early Singapore, and care for the community, living beings and Mother Earth. They adopted the twin motto of Caring for Environment, Caring for People.

In its early years, Kampung Senang concentrated on an Elderly Care Centre and a Student Care Centre. It provided immediate relief and hope to the needy and chronically ill. Thanks to founding board member Mr Lau Meng Cher’s donation of a recycling truck, Kampung Senang started recycling mobility aids and hospital beds. This project won Best Volunteer Initiative Award from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre.

Today, through a range of programmes that encourage healthy living, Kampung Senang inspires people to take care of themselves and the environment. Kampung Senang’s thinking is this: when you can take good care of yourself, you are healthy and happy to give back and help others too. Joyce, James, you and everyone involved in Kampung Senang can be very proud of what you have achieved. To Kampung Senang’s management committee members, staff, volunteers, supporters, donors, and supporting corporations - thank you very much. Your impact on real lives is priceless. More importantly, your story shows that anyone of us can make a difference, if we make the commitment to care for others. On the occasion of your 15th birthday, let me encourage you to step into the future with confidence, with love, and with lots of the kampung spirit. You are an important member of our kampung - all of us thank you for your good work and look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you.

Thank you.

AFT, NEA Agendas Converge Amid External, Internal Pressure - Education Week

Education Week - Teachers - 25 July 2014
At their recent conventions, the teachers' unions showed remarkable alignment on key issues, from testing and accountability to common-core implementation and forceful rebukes of Secretary Duncan.
Topic: Teachers

Resources and Tips for Parents to Engage Children in Mother Tongue Language Learning

Mother Tongue Languages Symposium 2014 Sharing Sessions and Workshops Open for Public Registration

Online registration is now open for the sharing sessions and workshops at the 3rd Mother Tongue Languages (MTL) Symposium, to be held at the Suntec Singapore Exhibition and Convention Centre, from 11:00am to 8:00pm on Saturday, 23 August 2014. Participants at the 12 sharing sessions and workshops can look forward to learning from experts and educators on using teaching aids and picture books to engage children in the learning of MTL. They can also pick up tips on choosing picture books that will interest children in language learning, as well as pointers on creating a supportive home environment for language learning.

Into its third year now, the MTL Symposium brings together Singapore schools and the community to share our collective efforts in promoting MTL through creative and engaging programmes. This year’s theme, “Flourish in the Wonderland of Our Languages”, underscores the importance of schools, community and parents working together to provide a supportive and vibrant language environment in helping children develop their MTL proficiency. The focus of the Symposium will be on the developmental years, from pre-school to lower primary levels, with an emphasis on the importance of the home language environment in language acquisition.

Targeted at educators from pre-school to institutes of higher learning and parents of young children, the Symposium will feature on-going efforts by schools, professionals and community groups in nurturing a love for the learning of MTL and culture in young children. It will also provide a platform for the exchange of ideas among educators and parents on our children’s learning of their MTL.

Besides sharing sessions and workshops, there will also be 40 exhibition booths by pre-school centres, schools and our partners showcasing innovative teaching methods and community programmes that help to nurture our children as active learners and proficient users of their MTL.

Children can participate in “The MTL Challenge” interactive activities at the booths and win attractive prizes. They will also be treated to all-day storytelling and performances in the MTL Wonderland. A list of activities and exhibitions at the MTL Symposium can be found at

Admission to the Symposium is free. The first 4,000 visitors will also receive a goody bag. Registration for the sharing sessions and workshops is on a first-come- first-served basis. Members of the public can register at

Teachers Get Up-Close Insight Into High Court Workings - Education Week

Education Week - Teachers - 21 July 2014
The Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers brings educators with a keen interest in the law to Washington for a hands-on encounter with the nation's highest court.
Topic: Teachers

Racial Harmony Day Celebrations 2014 "Harmony from The Heart"

On 21 July this year, schools in Singapore marked the 50th anniversary of the 1964 racial riots. Racial Harmony Day (RHD), commemorated by schools on 21 July annually, has helped to promote inter-racial understanding among our students and is an important part of our national education. This year, our students will go a step further to advocate racial harmony among neighbours and friends.

This year’s RHD theme is “Harmony from the Heart”. It recognises that genuine and sincere harmony stems from the common values and aspirations we share, and the ties that bind us together. It can only be achieved if everyone takes the initiative to understand the different cultures, and inspire others to do the same.

The RHD celebrations are a reminder that promoting social cohesion and racial harmony requires collaborative efforts from our educators, students and stakeholders, including parents.

Political leaders from the Ministry of Education joined students to commemorate RHD at various schools today:

Political Leader School Mr Heng Swee Keat
Minister for Education Elias Park Primary School Ms Indranee Rajah
Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law & Ministry of Education Bartley Secondary School Ms Sim Ann
Minister of State, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Communications and Information Greenridge Primary School Mr Hawazi Daipi
Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Manpower Yishun Secondary School RHD Activities at Elias Park Primary School

As the Guest-of-Honour (GOH) at Elias Park Primary School (EPPS), Minister for Education Mr Heng Swee Keat noted that good relationships can only be built if we better understand those around us. He encouraged students to do their part to understand other cultures, and going beyond that, to also be advocates of racial harmony. He announced that,, a ground-up national body focused on building racial and religious harmony, has been working with MOE and our primary schools to engage all Primary 4 students in advocating racial harmony by providing them with Orange Ribbon kits. The Orange Ribbon has been adopted by as a symbol of racial harmony to promote values of respect, understanding, trust and friendship. Each Primary 4 student will make six orange ribbons from the materials in the kit. Students will wear one of the ribbons and give the other ribbons to someone of a different culture, who could be a schoolmate or a neighbour. The ribbon will be accompanied with a personal note encouraging the recipient to wear the ribbon, and to talk to a friend or a neighbour from a different race to find out more about his or her culture and practices.

Primary 4 students from EPPS became the school’s advocates of inter-cultural understanding and racial harmony, by playing host to children from two kindergartens in the Pasir Ris area. Some of the EPPS students served as SH@PE Guides to lead visitors through the Singapore Heritage @ Elias Park (SH@PE) Alive!, which comprises different learning centres with artefact displays, interactive exhibits and resource materials. These SH@PE Guides and dedicated parent volunteers helped their guests and the kindergarten children to gain insights into our nation’s rich heritage, understand our customs and traditions, be connected to the way of life of yesteryear, and appreciate the different cultures that make up Singapore. The Primary 4 EPPS students also presented the Orange Ribbons that they made to the children from the two kindergartens. Thereafter, they also shared about the importance of racial harmony and encouraged behaviours to demonstrate the intended values.

RHD Activities at Bartley Secondary School

As the GOH, Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law & Ministry of Education, opened Bartley Secondary School (BSS)’s Hawker Culture Learning Gallery, which aims to enhance the teaching and learning of hawker culture and heritage. Schools from the S6 cluster, which include Bartley Secondary, Cedar Primary, Cedar Girls’ Secondary, CHIJ Our Lady of the Nativity, Peicai Secondary, St Gabriel’s Primary, St Gabriel’s Secondary, St Margaret’s Secondary, Teck Ghee Primary, Yangzheng Primary, Zhonghua Primary and Zhonghua Secondary, collaborated to put up the exhibition on how hawker culture promotes better inter-cultural understanding. Through sharing their knowledge and learning, students acted as advocates of inter-cultural understanding to their schoolmates and peers from other schools.

Visitors were interviewed by BSS students regarding their recollections of hawker food and its relevance to racial harmony and nation-building in Singapore. The interviews were conducted in front of a green screen and captured on video, later to be edited against a background of a hawker scene. These videos will be used as resources for students to deepen their learning about Singapore’s unique feature of racial harmony through the place that hawker centres play in our lives.

RHD Activities at Greenridge Primary School

As the GOH, Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Communications and Information, joined Greenridge Primary School (GRPS) students in commemorating RHD through playing traditional games and learning about other cultures. Primary 4 students acted as advocates of inter-cultural understanding, through giving an Orange Ribbon to Primary 3 students and explaining its meaning, and teaching them the traditional games, which promote the values of respect, understanding, trust and friendship.

These activities reinforced the learning from GRPS’s signature programme named Funtastick Harmony, a school-based programme comprising an array of activities across different themes, such as Food, Festivals, Music and Sports. Through this programme, students learn to work together (stick) in harmony through fun and meaningful common experiences. It promotes cross-cultural understanding and social cohesion amongst students of different races, reinforcing the civic values of respect, care, harmony, graciousness and public-spiritedness.

RHD Activities at Yishun Secondary School

As the GOH, Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Manpower, joined Yishun Secondary School (YSS) in commemorating RHD with some of the pioneer generation members living in Chong Pang constituency. Students had earlier interviewed them to find out more about the racial riots that they had witnessed or lived through, their lives in the kampong, as well as how they continue to live out the kampong spirit in their current Housing Development Board estates. This effort was part of YSS’s collaboration with Chong Pang Community Centre, where students interacted with residents when they visited and helped them clean their homes. YSS screened the video that captured the process. This was a Values in Action (VIA) initiative that allowed students to appreciate the contributions of our pioneer generation in nation-building and encouraged students to extend their care and concern to the people around them.

Mr Hawazi launched a portal, Harmony from the Heart, a digital repository of photographs taken by students to represent their commitment towards racial harmony. This repository of photographs will also serve as a teaching and learning resource that teachers can use to engage students in oral discussion and to teach essay-writing.

Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat at the Racial Harmony Day Celebrations

Remembering the Past

50 years ago today, on the 21st of July 1964, a peaceful procession from the Padang to Geylang turned violent. Fighting broke out between Malay participants and Chinese individuals. The violence spread quickly. Before long, it turned into a racial riot.

In a riot, crowds of people get angry. They start fighting and hurting each other. In this riot, people attacked others simply because they were from a different race. They were emotional and they listened more to rumours than to reason. The riots spread across two five-day periods in 1964 where property was destroyed, people were injured and some lost their lives. This was one of the darkest periods in Singapore’s history.

It is a period in time which we never want to repeat. It is important for us to remember the tragic consequences of racial disharmony, and irresponsible spreading of rumours. There was a lack of understanding among the races which led to suspicion. There were instigators who misled others and fed on these suspicions.

That is why we make it a point to commemorate Racial Harmony Day every year on 21 July. More importantly, throughout the year, we must strive to better understand our various cultures and practices, and form strong friendships across the communities. These relationships that bind us together will help us in difficult times. When the riots occurred in Singapore in 1964, there were many stories of how Singaporeans from the different races protected their neighbours. One such story comes from the predominantly Chinese kampong of Kampong Sireh 1 . Inche Hussein Bin Ibrahim was the Malay ketua (head) there in 1964. He told The Straits Times after the riots that the 70 Malays and the 3000 Chinese who lived there were ‘one family’. During the periods of disturbances, Chinese families did the marketing for the Malays. At night, Chinese and Malays joined together as guards. It was the trust, friendship and understanding among the villagers that helped the community survive the difficult times. The good relationships, built during peaceful times, between the Malay families and Chinese families in Kampong Sireh meant that nothing external was going to change the way they interacted with one another.

Building Understanding and Advocating for Racial Harmony

Good relationships can only be built if we better understand those around us.
I am heartened by the recent study on Indicators of Racial and Religious Harmony. These indicators were created by, a ground-up national body focussed on building racial and religious harmony, and the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), to gauge the state of racial and religious relations in Singapore. The results show that Singapore has much to celebrate about the state of harmony here. Schools and the community groups must have done a good job in educating subsequent generations of the importance of racial and religious harmony. Still, there are areas that we need to work on. The study shows that we can do more in building “interest in intercultural understanding and interaction”. We must not take intercultural understanding and interaction for granted. We have to continue to build strong bonds in our community - bonds of trust, friendship and understanding — to meet the challenges of the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous global environment we face today. We also need to encourage others to do the same - which means that each of us should be an advocate of racial harmony.

I am happy to announce that has been working with MOE and our primary schools to engage all Primary 4 students in advocating racial harmony by providing them with Orange Ribbon kits. The Orange Ribbon has been adopted by as a symbol of racial harmony to promote values of respect, understanding, trust and friendship. Each Primary 4 student will make 6 orange ribbons from the materials in the kit. Students will wear one of the ribbons while giving each of the other ribbons to someone of a different culture, who could be a schoolmate or a neighbour. The ribbon will be accompanied with a personal note and card encouraging the recipient to wear the ribbon, and to talk to a friend or a neighbour from a different race to find out more about their culture and practices. I hope that this cohort experience will develop as a signature event so that over time all our young Singaporeans will have this experience of not only understanding the importance of racial harmony but also being racial harmony advocates themselves.

Today’s programme at Elias Park Primary involves the Primary 4 Eliasians representing the school to be advocates of intercultural understanding and racial harmony. They will present the Orange Ribbons they made to children from two kindergartens in the Pasir Ris area. Student guides will also lead the children through the Singapore Heritage @ Elias Park (SH@PE) Alive learning centres to teach them about the importance of Racial Harmony. This is a good example on how our students can go beyond understanding to do their part to be advocates of Racial Harmony.


Singapore has thrived because of our openness to international trade flow, knowledge and cultures, all of which have brought us opportunities and progress. As Singapore moves towards a more diverse landscape, it is important that we continue to embrace diversity. Singapore is a cosmopolitan city like many other dynamic cities of the world. We also need to go beyond understanding the main races to respecting all people regardless of race, language or religion, who live and work in Singapore - for the happiness, prosperity and progress of our nation.

This year, let us not just look back on the tragic events of 50 years ago, but also look forward to think about what we can do to ensure Singapore continues to enjoy harmony in the next 50 years and beyond. Let us all do our part to understand other cultures, and going beyond that, let us also be advocates of racial harmony. I want to encourage all of you to make a special effort to befriend people of other races, cultures and religions, and encourage your friends and neighbours to do the same as we go about promoting ‘Harmony from the Heart.’

I wish all of you an engaging and meaningful Racial Harmony Day.

Thank you.

  1. From “Chinese Village Guarded its Malay Families” published in The Straits Times, 17 September 1964.
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