Heng outlines vision to bring out best in every child

SINGAPORE - Bringing out the best in every child - this ambition lies at the heart of his ministry's plans to transform the learning landscape here, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

As he mapped out the journey so far, he also spelt out plans to give students with different needs greater financial help and learning opportunities.

These include increasing the number of school-based student care centres to cover two-thirds of primary schools and new offices to support disabled students in institutes of higher learning.

Other changes, such as those affecting the Primary School Leaving Examination, are still on the drawing board, he told the House.

Earlier, several MPs spoke passionately about their pet topics on education, from the PSLE to special education to the oft-repeated but much-misunderstood slogan of "every school a good school".

Mr Heng laid out what his ministry meant by the pledge. It does not mean every school produces top achievers in the national examinations. Nor does it mean that "every school is the same school".

"It does mean every school is good in its own way, seeking to bring out the best in every child."

For over an hour, he sketched out how this will be done - in every domain of learning, in every school, at every level and no matter what the child's starting point is, and, finally, in partnership with parents, teachers and schools to chart a future together.

Hence, the domain of learning, for example, will not be defined just by academic studies but also activities such as music and sports and courses that build character. This way, students are equipped to navigate a more complex world.

Apart from character and values education, "we emphasise higher-order thinking, collaborative and cross-cultural skills to manage complexity in a globalised information age", he said.

This holistic approach to education will apply to every school, each playing to its strengths.

"We will continue to expand the mix of programmes across our schools, and create a landscape with more distinctive schools, each good in its own way, well resourced with good teachers, and with varied programmes."

He praised several schools doing just that, at every stage, from primary level right up to the different pathways in post-secondary education. The system is working: Some 96 per cent reach post-secondary education with diverse paths to go on to next.

On how the ministry will work on the different starting points of each child, whether he is from a disadvantaged home or has a learning disability, he set out the different help programmes and their further enhancements. These range from the literacy support programme in pre-schools and primary schools to bursaries for ITE, polytechnic and university students. "We must strive for our education system to be open and inclusive," he said.

Finally, the goal to bring out the best in every child needs the dedication of teachers and parents and schools working together.

"We hope that each child can reach his best and go on to be a pioneer in his own way, inspiring others and passing on his best to generations to come, like our pioneers have done," he said, in a nod to the Budget's centrepiece of honouring the pioneers.

Madam A. Saratha, 32, who has a six-year-old son who was disabled by an accident, welcomed the enhanced bursaries and support for disabled students.

Said the sales executive: "I am relieved. Children like my son need all the help they can get to catch up to their peers and do well in school."


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