What a difference a principal can make

What a difference a principal can make

SINGAPORE - My seven-year-old son has been learning to swim during physical education (PE) lessons.

He is in the afternoon session, so PE lessons are between 1pm and 3pm when the heat is scorching. But the lessons have continued, rain or shine, because the pool is sheltered.

When I tell friends, they ask if he is in Anglo-Chinese School. He's actually in a neighbourhood school which has no pool. But the children are taken to the Singapore Sports School, a 15-minute bus ride away, to use its Olympic-size pool once a week.

Other heartland schools have also introduced a variety of activities, many mooted by innovative principals.

In the recent round of appointments of principals, much was made of the Education Ministry moving senior principals to heartland schools. Education Minister Heng Swee Keat called it a tangible way to make every school a good school.

An experienced principal can have a significant effect. But a principal with a heart and a determination to make an impact on children's lives makes all the difference.

In the years I've covered education as a reporter, many principals have left a deep impression on me because of what they have done for their pupils.

One of them is Mrs Aw Ai Ling, who is leaving Gan Eng Seng Primary at the end of this year. A first-time principal, she made all her pupils learn music theory and took her school band to perform in Hong Kong Disneyland, because many would otherwise not have such opportunities.

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