They still have the drive to teach

They still have the drive to teach

Between the two of them, they have more than 65 years of experience teaching learner drivers how to drive and stay safe on the roads.

So it would be a waste if they had to stop teaching once they turn 70.

But private driving instructor Roger Chong, 69, and Mr Tan Thia Hwee, 61, an instructor at a driving centre, can now work longer.

The Singapore Police announced last Wednesday that driving instructors can now teach until they turn 75, up from the previous limit of 70.

The changes kicked in on Sunday.

Said the police in a statement: "With this revision, driving instructors who are 70 and older can continue to conduct driving lessons until they turn 75, if they pass their annual enhanced medical examination."

Mr Chong, who has been a full-time private driving instructor for more than 40 years, told The New Paper that this extension was "a blessing" which he appreciates.


Said Mr Chong: "It was too soon a limit and I can still work. I like teaching people how to drive and taking that away from me at 70 would be too soon.

"People my age still have so much to give, as long as we are healthy and able.

"Getting rid of us would be getting rid of an abundance in the type of experience we can transmit."

Mr Chong said he is just one out of many driving instructors pleased with the news.

Mr Roger Chong has been a full-time private driving instructor for more than 40 years.Photo: The New Paper

Bukit Batok Driving Centre instructor, Mr Tan, who has been teaching for the past 25 years, said he now too may consider working till 75.

"I like meeting new friends from all walks of life, sharing my knowledge on road safety and being able to guide them in getting their driving licence," he said.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said that over the years, his ministry has heard from driving instructors, the Singapore Driving Instructors' Association and some MPs that "many driving instructors wish to continue teaching beyond the statutory age limit of 70, if they are still fit and healthy".

On the revision, Mr Lee said in a Facebook post last Wednesday: "This will allow qualified and experienced instructors who teach privately or in driving schools to continue teaching and imparting good and safe driving skills to learner drivers if they are mentally alert and in good health."

Singapore Safety Driving Centre operations manager Gerard Pereira said the age-limit increase was well-received by his centre's instructors.

About five of them will turn 70 in the next two to three years and he said they are happy to continue to work.

This extension also helps soothe the problem of a lack of fresh blood.

Said Mr Pereira: "It is also hard to find new instructors to hire, because of the shift work and weekend duties.

"We have employed some younger people but after two or three duties, they find they cannot handle the job and disappear."

But disappearing is not on Mr Chong's mind.

He said he is passionate about his job and wants to teach more students and increase the number of people he helped get licensed, which is more than 800.

"I was going to take up fishing and horticulture to keep my mind and body active," he said with a laugh.

"Thankfully I can keep on doing what I like to do."

This article was first published on Jan 3, 2017.
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