Educators urged to push frontiers of learning

During her decade at Millennia Institute, Madam Siti Zubaidah Abdullah has constantly tried to whet her students' appetite for business management.

For instance, she will take them to the shops around the school's neighbourhood.

"There are bakeries, small department shops and Chinese sinsehs (physicians). I used all these to teach about things like sole proprietorship and partnership," said the 51-year-old, who has been a teacher for 27 years.

"Some business concepts can be very dry, so I want to make it more interesting for students."

A total of 7,103 Ministry of Education officers were promoted this year. Madam Siti was among about 500 officers who received their promotion letters at a ceremony yesterday.

In a speech, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said that even as the world changes and education systems evolve, the essence of teaching remains the same - to lead, care and inspire.

"We need caring and reflective teachers who are committed to their craft, eager to push the frontiers of learning," he said.

Non-teaching staff such as allied educators, who counsel and guide students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, also play a crucial role in developing a child, Mr Heng said.

"They provide more specialised support for our students to help them improve self-confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of independence," he said.

The lead counsellor at Pioneer Primary, Mr Kenny Ong, is one such example. He recalled how teachers at his previous school, Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary, had complained about a "disruptive" Primary 2 pupil.

"He talked a lot in class and was always asking questions. There were worries that the boy had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder," said the 49-year-old.

But through counselling, Mr Ong found that the boy was just more expressive than other eight-year-olds, and had a flair for performing.

Mr Ong encouraged him to enrol in speech and drama classes. "The pupil was more settled in class because he was channelling his energy towards the right things."

Mr Heng also paid tribute to the more than 10,000 pioneer educators and staff for "laying a strong foundation" on which the ministry will continue to build.

"Your stories will continue to inspire us," he said.

The cheers yesterday were not reserved just for the MOE officers who got their promotion letters.

At the end of the ceremony, the audience rose to sing the national anthem, but the music failed to play due to a technical issue. So Ms Ho Peng, MOE's director-general of education, walked to the stage and led the audience in an a cappella version of the anthem, earning her rousing applause.

This article was published on April 18 in The Straits Times.

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