Growing Our Teachers, Building Our Nation
Dear colleagues, a very good morning to all. It is nice to see so many familiar faces back together here today. Let me take the opportunity to introduce our two new Deputy Secretaries, Mr Lam Yi Young, and Mr Lim Boon Wee.
We Build on Legacy
I have watched the video on our pioneer educators many times, and each time, I learn something new.
Since the start of this year, I have also met many of our pioneer educators.
- Their stories move me.
- From drawing a running track on the field every year, to working with cooks to make sure our children had proper nutrition, to teaching many subjects because the kampung school could only afford two teachers – they responded to the needs of the day and went the extra mile.
- Many pioneer educators, including many of you still in service, will also recall teaching in the mornings and training at Teachers’ Training College (TTC) in the afternoons, or vice versa; and preparing lesson plans in the evening. It was very tough, but you were tougher.
- Our pioneers did not do everything perfectly. But they did many things right. They did so much with so little! They were responsible, resourceful and resilient. They started with little but they left us much.
- We could not have today’s Singapore without pioneers in various fields.
- We could not have today’s Singapore without our teachers.
- They left us a precious legacy. So let us resolve to build on this legacy.
A Year of Consolidation, A Year about Teachers
In my first WPS in 2011, I spoke about a student-centric, values-driven education.
- Values-driven – so that we can equip our students with an inner compass to guide them through the many changes in life.
- Student-centric – so that we can bring out the best in every child.
The following year, I sketched out a little more what a student-centric, values-driven education meant with the 4 “Every”s – “Every School a Good School”, “Every Student an Engaged Learner”, “Every Teacher a Caring Educator” and “Every Parent a Supportive Parent”.
And indeed, “Every School a Good School” has gotten into our vocabulary, both among educators and with members of the public.
- It affirms the good work that educators in every school are doing.
- It focuses our attention on the different needs of each of our schools.
- In this way, it is also assuring to parents.
Last year, I elaborated on the theme of “Every Student an Engaged Learner”, so that everyone can acquire a Broad and Deep Foundation for a Lifelong Journey:
Let me thank all of you for working very hard, and very thoughtfully, on these changes.
Teachers are at the heart of all our efforts. This year, we will touch on Every Teacher a Caring Educator, of how we will consolidate all that we have done so far in our journey of a student-centric, values-driven education.
I will talk about how we can grow our teachers:
- Each of you individually;
- All of us together as a team;
- And how we keep our flame burning bright
What Makes A Singapore Teacher?
In the four years I’ve been at MOE, I have interacted with many educators, in groups big and small, in MOE HQ and in schools, and on special occasions. You have been generous in sharing, and candid in reflecting the challenges you face on the ground. Through your words and deeds, I have learnt much about education and educating.
I know your work is challenging, but I know your work has deep and lasting impact.
You serve with joy, with heart, and a deep sense of mission.
And you do your best to keep improving. Today, three schools will be receiving the Lee Hsien Loong Award for Innovations in the Normal Course, 20 schools will be receiving Best Practices, and 13 schools will be receiving the School Distinction Award. My heartiest congratulations to all our schools!
Our Singapore Teachers are special. It’s hard to describe, but let me try and distil what I see are the qualities of a Singapore Teacher. This is not a definitive list, but I hope that it serves to catalyse discussion.
Quality 1: You Believe in Your Students
The first quality is Belief. Belief in Your Students. Belief that every child can learn, every child can do better, and every child can achieve more, if we believe in them.
- You may recall that Outram Secondary made the news last year as water polo champions again after many years in the cold.
- It is a story about the students, but it is also a story about a teacher’s belief – Mr Francis Tang’s belief in his students.
- When Francis first started coaching, the school was known for taking last place every year in the last 20 years.
- Francis shared: “When I first took charge… nobody came for training. They didn’t see the point of turning up for training if it was almost a guarantee that they would lose. I felt this attitude couldn’t continue. This was an opportunity for character-building.”
- Francis told his team: “You are not destined to be losers all your life. You can become the water polo players you want to be – if you fight for your dream, I will stick by you.” At the end of it, Francis looked into their eyes and he knew the message got through. Francis said: “I could see that they would follow me. Because somebody believed in them. They had hope.”
- That was the turning point. The boys trained regularly. And as they say, the rest is history.
Quality 2: You Believe in Yourself
The second quality is also about Belief. This time, it is about Belief in Yourself. Belief that you can do better, that you can keep on honing your craft, keep on learning and growing personally and professionally.
- Always amazing to me how a Primary 1 child, after 10 years of basic education in our school system, can grow so much. From knowing just ABCs to writing beautiful prose, from counting 123s to doing algebra, from just walking and running to performing very complex sports and dance moves.
- If we can help a child to grow so much in 10 years, imagine how much our teachers too can also grow in leaps and bounds in 10 years as a teacher, and much more beyond that, year after year.
- Just as we bring out the best in every child, we must also bring out the best in all our teachers in our education system. And I believe we can do this – enabling every educator to be a caring educator.
This year, the National Institute of Education (NIE) started its inaugural Advanced Diploma in Teaching Early Primary School Years.
- In this pioneering class were 13 teachers who had 220 years of teaching experience – an average of close to 20 years each! Two of them are with us today: Mrs Bernadine Dorett with 31 years in service and Miss Wong Meng Yean with 27 years.
- It is easy to assume that after so many years, one knows everything. But their belief that we can and must do better and their passion for lifelong learning are commendable.
- In fact, their NIE lecturer exclaimed: they were “truly inspirational” and “authentically passionate teachers who cared about their tasks and their students”.
Quality 3: You Believe in One Another
The third quality, again, is Belief. Beyond Belief in Your Students, Belief in Yourself, I see in our teachers a Belief in One Another. A care and dedication to one another.
- Let us have a look at a video about the story of Mr Yap Boon Chien, a Lead Teacher at Tanjong Katong Girls’ School, and hear his sharing.
- Interesting that Boon Chien used the term “chain reaction”. Now, I know one of the Beginning Teachers being mentored by Boon Chien, Mr Low Bing Ying, is also here with us today. Bing Ying will also share with us his experience.
- You noticed that Bing Ying said: “I am not alone”. And indeed, we do not undertake this journey alone. We are part of a bigger whole. Each inspiring teacher has inspiring mentors as their role models in this fraternity – guiding them to grow as a person and as an educator.
Boon Chien shows Belief in his students, and Belief in himself so that he explores, finds better ways of teaching in order to reach out to his students. He also knows he is part of a fraternity, where he starts this chain reaction to make sure Beginning Teachers are not alone.
Quality 4: You Believe in Being Part of Something Larger
Now let me come to the final quality, and yes, it has something to do with Belief. I said the good Singapore Teacher has Belief in Your Students, Belief in Yourself, Belief in One Another.
The fourth quality is really a Belief in Being Part of Something Larger – larger than your students, than yourselves, than the whole teaching fraternity put together.
You are part of the larger Singapore story, the story of survival and success against the odds, the story of turning constraints into opportunities, and the story of building unity from diversity and turning diversity into strength.
During the Teachers’ Day celebration at MOE this year, the Director-General of Education Ms Ho Peng shared a moving story, and the folks at MOE told me that I must share it with everyone.
It is a story about four educators.
Mrs Claudette Poulier, has just retired after serving 63 years as an educator! She was Mrs Glory Barnabas’ teacher in 1955. As sports secretary of her school, Mrs Poulier spotted Glory’s potential and groomed her to be a national runner. Glory’s relay team still holds the national record of the 4x400m relay set in 1974.
Glory, inspired by Mrs Poulier, joined the teaching profession in 1961. As Glory coached her student, Ms Emily Huang, in 1994, she too ignited in Emily a love for teaching.
Emily became a teacher in year 2000, where she taught Ms Dinah Chan, who was inspired by Emily to teach and subsequently joined teaching in 2010.
Glory, Emily and Dinah are all serving as PE teachers today. Glad to see Emily, who was a member of the national triathlon team, is with us today. Dinah is competing in cycling in the Asian Games in Incheon right now – we wish her all the best!
Their story – four successive generations of teacher-student relationships, grooming three national athletes, all inextricably linked by their love for their students and their love for teaching – is more than a moving narrative; it is a stirring story of how all good teachers are part of a larger whole, of our achievements as a nation, of how teachers light the flame in their students – and pass the torch from one generation to the next.
Summarising the 4 Qualities of the Singapore Teacher
A good teacher acts on his belief that he is part of something larger. He lifts up his students, he grows himself, he supports his fellow educators, and gives it all, to build something bigger than himself.
Lesson by lesson, life by life, generation by generation, all of us in this room have given much to build something larger than ourselves.
These are the lessons I’ve learnt from you, which I have distilled as the four qualities of the Singapore Teacher. I hope we can continue to discuss what makes the Singapore Teacher unique and distinctive.
Growing the Singapore Teacher
In many ways, teachers all over the world share many common qualities, but there are also important differences.
For a start, our context is different. Our history, our geography, our culture, our multi-racial/multi-religious society, our small open economy, and the challenges we face as a nation are different from other countries.
As a small nation that is globally connected, we are buffeted by globalisation and technological changes, and geo-political developments around the world. We are not a super tanker making waves, but rather, a small boat that feels the effect of the changes. Therefore, we have to navigate the waves and waters skilfully. But, we are nimble and we can chart our own way forward.
Let me just highlight some of the changes we have to navigate, even within education.
- Our students are changing. I was struck by how several principals told me that Primary 5 students today are different from Primary 5 students just five years ago – more precocious, more restless, more vocal.
- The parents in our community that we are interacting with are also changing – they have different expectations.
- The content of the subjects that we are teaching are changing – with new discoveries and new knowledge.
- The ways we are teaching are also changing. As we learn more about how people learn, we are improving our pedagogy.
- And of course, technology opens up new and wonderful possibilities.
- Demands in the future for our young people are changing – new jobs, new ways of working, new technologies, and new countries they will have to go to.
So what we teach is also changing – indeed, we are at the forefront of teaching 21st century competencies.
There is one other thing we can all be proud of – that we seek to provide a holistic education, through CCA, CCE, and socio-emotional learning; and we do it for every child, regardless of which school they are in, their background or their starting point. I’ve visited many school systems around the world, and we offer one of the most holistic education in the world, through a whole suite of integrated and comprehensive programmes. And of course, this means a lot of hard work by our teachers, so thank you very much.
But the changes that bring opportunities and challenges also add up to one thing: the demands on our educators are changing and increasing.
I sometimes wonder about it and I think it has to do with the nature of our profession, the nature of teaching and learning. There is a Chinese saying: “学习犹如逆水行舟，不进则退。” Learning is like rowing a boat against the current, upstream. If you don’t make progress, we don’t just stagnate but will actually fall behind. That is the nature of this very difficult job.
To enable you to continue to do great work, we will, and must, continue to grow our Singapore Teachers and give them our full support. We will do it wholeheartedly in three ways:
- To grow our Singapore Teachers, we will have better professional development that build on existing professional development efforts.
- To grow our Singapore Teachers, we will find better ways to do things, to create time and space for personal and professional growth.
- To grow our Singapore Teachers, we will use better tools and better ideas.
- We are doing well, and we can do better. Better development. Better ways to do things. Better tools and better ideas.
(A) Better Development
Let me first touch on better development. We have many existing efforts, for example:
- Individual: Structured Mentoring
- School: Professional Learning Communities
- National/Cluster: Networked Learning Communities and Subject Chapters
Over the next five years, we will make a major qualitative leap in our teachers’ professional development.
To achieve this, we will focus on high impact learning and developmental activities.
Done well over time, these efforts will be transformational in growing our Singapore Teacher. So let me highlight some key measures.
(1) More Opportunities for Specialisation
First, we will be providing more opportunities for deeper specialisation for our teachers.
Specialisation, where appropriate, will help our teachers to develop mastery over content and pedagogical skills. This, in turn, will help our students to build a deeper and stronger foundation.
In the coming years, our primary school teachers will specialise in teaching two subjects instead of the current three. This could include a specialisation in social studies. Social studies is not examinable in the PSLE, but it is an important subject – part of Character and Citizenship Education (CCE). Both pre-service and in-service training will be adjusted accordingly.
This year, we have also started the Advanced Diploma in Special Education in NIE, for Allied Educators and for teachers in our Special Education (SPED) schools. This will allow more educators to better support students with special needs.
(2) Deepening Our Support for Mentoring
Second, we will deepen our support for mentoring.
Mentoring is important, and mentoring works because as many of you have pointed out, teaching is a craft. As in any craft, you need to know the theory and to put theory into practice; and it is not just any form of practice, as more practice does not necessarily make perfect.
Rather, we need deliberate practice.
- Deliberate practice that challenges us to do things that we are not good at, that takes us out of our comfort zone.
- Deliberate practice that helps us stay open to feedback and critique by an experienced coach.
- Deliberate practice that allows us to accelerate our learning.
- Deliberate practice that is sustained.
Practice is especially important, when you are just starting out. I recently had a chat with a group of Beginning Teachers, and without fail, every one of them told me how they felt they were “amateur jugglers”, juggling things in the air, and hoping that none of it falls apart.
Every small move in the classroom counts. Like how you organise a whiteboard so that by the end of the lesson, what you start out with ends up as a coherent whole. Or even the colour of markers you use. One teacher shared that she used random coloured markers at the start, and a student asked – does red mean a main-point and green a sub-point? She was stumped by the question because she had just used whatever colour that was within her reach!
So, getting the small moves right can make a big difference.
As Bing Ying and Boon Chien have shared, having an experienced teacher helps. Well, we actually have four generations of Mentor-Mentees in this room. Dr Charles Chew, who is mentor of Mr Lee Siew Lin, who in turn mentors Boon Chien, who in turn mentors Bing Ying! I am sure there are many other mentor-mentee chains among you.
So to deepen mentoring, we will:
- Introduce a mentorship course.
- Provide more support for schools to offload mentors, so that they have time for their mentees.
- Integrate pre-service training and in-service mentoring more deeply and effectively.
Each teacher can be a mentor to your fellow teachers, each Head of Department (HOD) a mentor to another HOD, and indeed each principal can be a mentor to fellow principals.
Mentors play an important role in growing the Singapore Teacher. And I hope that many more of you will step forward to be mentors.
(3) Grow and Deepen Subject Chapters and Networked Learning Communities, and Raise Apex for Teaching Track
Another thing we have learnt is that when communities of practitioners come together, it can be very powerful.
This is where I would want to commend the many teachers who have come together to form subject chapters under the Academy of Singapore Teachers (AST) and to form other networked learning communities (NLCs).
These subject chapters and NLCs have been very diligent in coming together to share good practices and identify common problems.
We will support subject chapters and NLCs better by forming core teams.
“Core teams” will comprise Principal Master Teachers, Master Teachers or Lead Teachers, specialists from all the relevant MOE divisions, including staff from NIE. Their role will be like explorers – to explore new and better ways of teaching – new frontiers of how we can teach better, to push the boundary, and see how we can improve in our quality of teaching.
They will also bring together teachers teaching the same domains – so as to continue to share, learn and innovate. The domain areas could cover academic subjects or non-academic ones; in fact, in any area that anyone is passionate about.
I am glad to know that we will be forming NLCs on CCE in each cluster. AST will also form a subject chapter for CCE in due course. So I urge teachers to make the best use of these.
I was equally glad when told we have two very active NLCs that are interested in specific groups of students – one for lower primary students, and one for Normal course students.
- You may have read about Dr Muhammad Nazir bin Amir who received one of the President’s Award for Teachers this year, and is an active member of the NLC for Normal course students. Have a look at what Nazir does for his students.
- Nazir is with us today, so I will ask Nazir to share with us.
- I really appreciate how Nazir skilfully blends character and values education with the learning of Design & Technology (D&T) and science, and that he is going to share this with many other teachers.
Today, we have three career tracks for our educators – teaching, leadership, senior specialist. We will do more to strengthen the teaching track. We will identify and encourage more teachers to be Principal Master Teachers (PMTTs), Master Teachers (MTTs), Lead Teachers (LTs) and Senior Teachers (STs) – to take up appointments to mentor other teachers, and to advance the frontiers of teaching.
To recognise efforts of teachers who have been mentoring and growing other teachers, I am happy to announce that we will be raising the apex grade for the teaching track. This is to clearly signal the important role Teacher-Mentors play in developing and leading fellow teachers, and in the process raising the quality of education for all our children.
(4) Deepen Whole-school Support and Culture of Professional Development
Another form of professional development that we know works, is school-based learning.
Our schools should not only be great places of learning for students; they should also be great places of learning for teachers.
Speaking to many of our school leaders, I know that many of you have introduced professional learning communities in your schools – some as teams, some structured into your timetable. But what is really powerful is a whole-school approach – such as Hillgrove Secondary, where they have a whole-school approach to “lesson study”.
This whole-school approach is important because everyone shares a common vocabulary, you cheer each other on, you learn from one another, and at the same time, by coming together and sharing resources, you can be more efficient.
A supportive school culture is critical. There is nothing like school leaders and HODs coming together, with the Senior Teachers and Lead Teachers in the school, to create this culture of support, and this culture of understanding:
- The profile of students in your school;
- The needs of the students in your school;
- The needs of your teachers;
- And then growing the capacity of your teachers to teach your students well.
Indeed this is key to making Every School a Good School.
We will support all schools in this journey of growing professional learning communities.
MOE’s Belief in Learning at Every Stage, in Every Way – Putting It Together
These four enhanced measures act on a fundamental MOE belief.
When Senior Minister of State Indranee and I spoke on the ASPIRE report in Parliament, we emphasised our future – the future of all Singaporeans – depends on building deep skills and on lifelong learning.
We need to develop the habit of learning at every stage and in every way, so that we can be at our best in whatever we do.
I see that our teachers will be at the forefront of leading this. If our teachers do this well, our teachers can teach better and can you imagine how our students will be inspired by their teachers to be lifelong learners.
We must recognise teachers with good values, deep skills and a commitment to do better. That is why we are emplacing our outstanding non-graduate teachers on the graduate pay scale, and why we are working on one single scale. Beyond the initial qualification, what matters most is this commitment to a lifetime of honing one’s craft.
Learning in every way: on the job, or through courses organised by AST or NIE, or anywhere; or learning in practice and through practice on the job; through mentoring; or simply, self-learning or personal reflection. There are different ways, and our teachers can choose what best meets their needs.
Coordination of Professional Development Under DyDGE(PD)
Leading, supporting and coordinating this professional development across MOE will require intense effort.
When I joined MOE in 2011, we restructured MOE to have three Deputy Director-Generals of Education – one for schools, one for our holistic curriculum (both academic and student development), and one for professional development of all educators. This was to signal MOE’s three focus areas.
Mdm Low Khah Gek as Deputy DGE (Schools) and Mr Wong Siew Hoong as Deputy DGE (Curriculum) have done a very good job. Ms Ho Peng, our DGE, has been covering the duties of Deputy DGE (Professional Development).
DGE has done a very good job, despite having to juggle many duties, and overseeing such a wide span. I know how committed she is to teacher growth and development. To help DGE take our teachers’ professional development to the next level, I am happy to announce that the Ministry will be appointing Mrs Chua Yen Ching to take on the role of Deputy DGE (Professional Development), with effect from 1st October this year.
We will take this opportunity to bring all our teacher academies together. The academies and language centres have been doing very good work so far. With this appointment, Yen Ching will spearhead the professional development of all our teachers, across all domains. Yen Ching will seek to harness the strengths of the various academies, AST subject chapters, NLCs, and work with school leaders and subject specialists to grow our core of STs, LTs and MTTs. Yen Ching will also work closely with our other two Deputy DGEs as well as NIE.
It will be a challenging task given the scope and depth, so let us all give our full support to Yen Ching in this endeavour.
(B) Better Ways to Do Things
I said we will have better development for our teachers.
I also want to make more time and space for our teachers to do things better, and to do better things; to have wisdom to decide what to do more of, and what to do less of.
Teaching is a complex job. Our teachers often go the extra mile to organise activities to develop our students holistically. This means organising learning experiences in school and outside of school, or even overseas trips.
To create an impactful learning experience for students, some administrative tasks are necessary.
- One teacher described to me what it took to organise a learning trip: she had to raise an Invitation to Quote (ITQ), select vendors, tie down details, register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), check expiry dates for student passports, do multiple pages of Risk Assessment & Management (RAM), liaise with parents, chase students and parents to return consent forms.
- Indeed, our rules are at times too rigid and these create extra work for ourselves. One Beginning Teacher described the many weekends spent filling up multiple forms to justify to a Uniformed Group HQ why one more student should get the badge because her school had exceeded the quota. Or appealing to the Uniformed Group HQ, not just once, but three times, before the HQ relented and allowed the student to attend the camp in another zone.
While each step has a good reason behind it, when they are all put together, they can be overwhelming for our teachers. I must commend our teachers for persisting despite the complexities.
Some of this work is what an experienced educator called the “necessary work before we can get teaching and learning done”. Some are not – and we should ask: are there better ways, can we do better things? I believe we can, and we should try.
First, we can simplify activities and events that have common learning outcomes. Many schools are already doing this.
- Over the past two years, Jurong Primary has integrated multiple events into three key events in a year – the Sports Carnival, the Learning Festival and the Celebration of Achievements.
- Anglican High integrated their Lower Secondary Value in Action (VIA) projects with skills and content from Food & Consumer Education as well as D&T. This makes both VIA and the learning of these two subjects more meaningful for students.
MOE HQ has also taken the lead to simplify processes. We have revised the School Excellence Model (SEM), Enhanced Performance Management System (EPMS) and Risk Assessment & Management (RAM) procedures to help us focus on the key outcomes.
- SEM now has 24 sub-criteria, instead of the previous 31, and 30 key performance measures, instead of the original 78.
- The revised EPMS form is now five pages instead of 15. Some of you gave feedback that it is more focused now.
Second, we will scale up good practices, using technology or otherwise.
- For example, Blangah Rise Primary invested in an e-Meal Coupon system in place of hardcopy coupons.
- MOE HQ found it useful and offered to scale this across primary schools.
- More than 100 are expected to take it up by early next year.
We can explore how technology and automation can help us do things better. This could be in attendance taking, parent notifications, consent forms, collection of monies, facilities booking, and so on.
Besides resourceful and innovative use of technology in administrative work, we can also make teaching more productive and learning more engaging using technology.
- Let us watch a video about Ms Elaine Chua, a Mother Tongue Language (MTL) teacher from Beacon Primary.
- This device that Elaine spoke about allows digital content on multiple mobile devices to be projected simultaneously on the wall. This makes it easier for the teacher to move around in class and minimises disruption in the lesson.
- She combed four floors of a shopping mall before finding this device – a real mark of Elaine’s perseverance! We are sharing this device with other schools that are interested.
So, let’s understand our schools’ needs, innovate, share and scale up good ideas.
Third, we will strengthen centralised support for schools.
Today, we have HR partners to provide support for schools in HR. We will introduce Finance Partners to also provide schools with one-stop support for more complex procurement and finance issues.
A Matter of Professional Judgement
I must emphasise that no two schools are identical in terms of needs or priorities.
Moreover, that there is a very fine line between administrative work, pastoral duties and student care. Many educators, for example, see attendance taking not as administrative work, but as a key part of pastoral care.
This process of reflection requires a thoughtful process and good professional judgement by our educators of what are meaningful and relevant activities.
Our school leaders and the school team will play a key role. Schools Division will engage schools and school leaders during their annual review of programmes and processes, to discuss how each school can simplify, scale and strengthen, and how MOE HQ can support schools in a systematic way.
We will not see results overnight, but we must try. Our efforts should be centred on how we deliver the best educational outcomes for our students.
Strengthening Support and Partnership of Parents
Now, as part of this strengthening, we need to strengthen the support of parents for what we do.
Our parents have to be supportive partners.
- I recently received a letter from a set of parents who thanked the teachers and school staff in Loyang Secondary for having listened, supported and guided them.
- They mentioned the teachers and school counsellors by name, and what they did, and thanked them for being responsive.
- They were so responsive that these parents admitted that they may have “abused” their kindness!
When educators are respected and appreciated by parents, educators know that they are backed-up in their efforts.
But we must also hold a clear line on parents who work against the school’s efforts by imposing themselves and their unrealistic demands on our educators.
- I was very upset recently to read about a pair of parents who insisted on doing things their way, and insisted on meeting the school leaders and teachers at short notice.
- They did this for more than 20 times within a short span of time, becoming more and more demanding each time.
- I looked through their list of unreasonable demands – we should put a stop to such behaviour.
As this example shows, dealing with unreasonable parents of one or two students take away an inordinate amount of time and energy that could be better spent on children who may need our attention more.
We must stand firm against such parents.
We need to be fair to other students we look after too.
However, there are also reasonable parents.
- A friend shared with me an incident about his daughter messaging her teacher for help at 11pm on a Sunday night.
- She had a test on Monday morning and was doing her revision last minute.
- She was very agitated that her teacher did not respond to her SMS immediately. She said “My teacher said that we can approach her anytime when we have questions!”
- Mind you, this was a Sunday night at 11pm!
- I was heartened that my friend gave his daughter a good dressing down for being inconsiderate, and to tell her teachers need rest too! I am also glad that my friend was teaching good values of respect and being considerate to others.
And parents, like my friend, who are supportive and considerate towards teachers, should be commended.
Because when parents respect and take care of our teachers, our teachers can teach better.
I know that many of our teachers make themselves available for consultation with their students, but it’s important to know where to draw a line in placing demands on the teachers.
I hope every parent would be a supportive partner.
- Work together with us.
- Show appreciation when good work has been done.
- Give us feedback when we can do better.
- At the same time, I ask for your support against the small minority of unreasonable demands of a small minority of parents.
To our teachers and school leaders, I will back you up as long as you are doing the right thing.
Together, we can develop our children and bring out the best in every child.
(C) Better Tools, Better Ideas
I spoke about better development, better ways to do things and better support from parents so that we can have space and time to do better things. We also need better tools and better ideas.
Let me share with you three examples of the clever use of good tools or good ideas.
- The first example is a game called “Statecraft X”, developed by NIE Associate Professor Chee Yam San. Students role-play as governors in a fantasy world. They look after different people in the land (e.g. trolls, dwarfs, elves and humans). By drawing lessons from the game world, they learn about concepts of citizenship. Dunman Secondary has been using it to complement social studies.
- The second example is using a free mobile application that records students’ movements during Physical Education (PE) and allows them to analyse and improve their techniques. St Gabriel’s Primary, St Gabriel’s Secondary, Hong Wen School and Serangoon Junior College are collaborating on an eduLab project to develop lessons using this mobile application, and will share this with other schools.
- The third example is Shuqun’s SPARCS (Shuqun Personalised Asynchronous cuRriculum for Collaborative and Self-directed learning). This is a blended learning approach where students access instructional videos at home. When they come to class, they discuss with one another, and teachers can then devote time to help students understand the topic better or engage students who have mastered the basics with higher-order questions.
What do all these examples have in common? They all use ICT in resourceful and innovative ways to improve teaching and learning. And they are all ground up. I want to make sure that we offer our fullest support on this. Let’s see how we can do this.
The three examples you saw in the video of how we can support our teachers in teaching and learning (re-enacting of STELLAR storybooks by students, the Model Math approach and the CCE video of the Supermarket Aunty) will be in the Student Learning Space.
The Student Learning Space can support new ways of learning – our students can learn anywhere, anytime and at any pace.
The Student Learning Space will curate high quality resources developed by MOE HQ, and from resources created by teachers in schools, clusters and groups, and from the Internet – all aligned to our national curriculum.
The Student Learning Space is still work in progress, but it is very exciting and will create a qualitative shift in the way our students learn.
All a Matter of Values and Beliefs
I have spoken earlier about the Singapore Teachers I have observed, who believe in your students, believe in yourselves, believe in the fraternity, and believe that, ultimately, all they do is for something larger than yourselves.
- My hope is to further grow the Singapore Teachers, through better development; doing things better; with better tools and ideas.
- It is really to build a home for the Singapore Teacher. I want our schools to be great working places and great learning places, where the Singapore Teacher feels at home and in his element; where there is a high level of trust, camaraderie, dedication to the cause and to one another; where the Singapore Teacher is always excited to come to work, and can’t wait to face new challenges because he knows that he can always come up with smart solutions together with his colleagues, and have fun doing it; where the Singapore Teacher infects all his students with his own love for learning.
- We have many things lined up. We have many people working hard at MOE HQ and in schools on these.
- When all the parts come together, as a force of over 30,000, can you imagine the impact that we can make to our students? As a force, as a great teaching force, we will help the next generation of Singaporeans succeed, so that the next generation of Singaporeans will go forth to create the future of Singapore.
- And while my remarks today focus on what teachers in our schools will do, one remarkable feature of our education system is that our schools, pre-schools, special education schools and our ITE, polytechnics and universities all work closely together. This nexus that we have is great strength, and we must continue to harness this strength, which allows us to bring out the best in every child at every stage of the learning journey, regardless of which stage they are in, and regardless of their starting point.
Through school visits, dialogues and discussions, I enjoyed interacting with all of you. You are lively, creative and talented. I am looking forward to the music performance by the group of teachers and principals later!
I have also learnt a lot from all of you, and I appreciate the challenges that you face as teachers and school leaders.
The Singapore Teachers are trailblazers in your practice, and in your pursuit of excellence in whatever you do.
You are also gatekeepers, strengthening what is important to us as a society, passing on values and shaping the character of our nation with every child you teach.
You teach to make Singapore possible, you teach to make our future possible.
And no one says it better than the students you teach – let’s hear from them in this video on the Art and Heart of Teaching.
These kids spoke with such sincerity and appreciation! This video is a reminder of
- Who we, as educators, are working for, and
- Why we, as educators, are happy to work hard.
You each received a compass today. When you flip it open, there’s a question: “As educators, what is our true North?”
Bringing out the best in every child is our true North, our collective cause.
Every teacher a caring educator:
- Caring from the heart;
- Educating with deep beliefs, deep values, and deep skills;
I hope you will never lose sight of the fact that you are part of one of the noblest professions in the world. In fact, every other profession passes through your hands.
You would remember the last line of our Singapore Teachers’ Vision: “We Lead, Care, Inspire – For the Future of the Nation Passes through our Hands.”
Principals will similarly recall the last line of your appointment letter: “Through your hands passes the future of our nation.”
The theme of this WPS is Growing our Teachers, Building our Nation. Next year, we will be celebrating 50 years of independence.
Let us be the pioneers of our time, let us be pioneers who shape the next 50 years of our nation – shape the next 50 years of our Singapore Story!