SINGAPORE - Mr Chua Kang Loong was in the weakest stream in primary school and could not get into a polytechnic after he finished his studies at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
But he was undeterred and applied for a more advanced ITE course. It paid off and he obtained a place in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, studying electronic and computer engineering.
This year, the 26-year-old graduated with a near perfect grade point average of 3.96. He also won the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal, given to each polytechnic's most outstanding graduate who came from ITE.
Mr Chua now has a place to read electronic engineering at the National University of Singapore and, in March, returned to ITE to be a teaching associate. He will also be going back to ITE to be a lecturer after attaining a degree.
He was cited by Minister of State (Communications and Information, and Education) Sim Ann as an example of someone who is giving back to the education system which "groomed" him and helped him succeed.
His story, said Ms Sim in Parliament yesterday, also highlights the Ministry of Education's priorities and values that it hopes to inculcate in young people.
These include ensuring there are different ways to succeed, helping students progress at their own pace and customising teaching to meet learning needs.
There are programmes and resources to support students who have difficulty coping in school, she said.
Ms Sim also pointed out the need to "find the right balance between individual and collective achievement".
"We want our students to be good citizens, with a heart for Singapore, compassion for others, and gratitude to those who have helped build their lives," she said.
But this does not mean "competition and excellence are no longer relevant", she added.
In her speech, she also summed up MOE's moves in the last three years, including abolishing school ranking, not naming the top Primary School Leaving Examination scorers and broadening direct school admission. These changes reflect key aims such as reducing the chase for academic grades and building strong values among the young, she said.
She outlined the ministry's efforts across the education sector, from its pre-school pilot to an Enhanced Nitec Foundation Programme it started this year for ITE students to learn literacy and numeracy.
She also spoke about how MOE is boosting support for students with special needs, through ways such as school-based dyslexia remediation, which has been expanded to one-third of all primary schools, and a transition scheme for students finding work.
There are 13,000 students with special needs in mainstream schools and another 5,000 in special education schools.
This article was first published on May 31, 2014.
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