Stress the need to build skills, educators urged

TEACHERS and principals play a crucial role in helping Singaporeans look beyond academic qualifications and build skills, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

To do this, educators need to place a stronger emphasis on skills and applied learning in schools, demonstrate a desire for lifelong learning, and help students understand the value of all types of jobs, he said yesterday.

And they can expect more support from the ministry.

Over the next five years, teachers will have more opportunities for subject specialisation, network with those teaching the same subjects, and receive more mentoring support, said Mr Heng at a graduation dinner at The Regent Singapore Hotel. A total of 35 school leaders, including five from Brunei, received their certificates for the six-month-long National Institute of Education Leaders in Education Programme which trains vice-principals before they take over as principals.

He called on the soon-to-be principals to encourage professional development among teachers.

"I urge you to lead well in this respect, building a culture of teachers growing teachers in your school, where each person takes ownership of his or her own learning," he said. He also urged the educators to reflect on the educational and career guidance given to students.

"In society today, there, unfortunately, exists an unhealthy lack of regard for certain jobs," he said. "But... teachers should help students discover the path best suited for them.

"We should work towards encouraging them to pursue their interests, regardless of their qualifications, and help them to turn their passion into their careers."

He said shifting the mindsets of parents, students, and fellow educators was a work in progress.

The efforts would help build a system which supports the recommendations of the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review report to enhance applied education in the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education and move away from an overemphasis on a university degree.

Madam Sarah Leong, 37, a graduate who will head Kheng Cheng School from next month, said: "We have to work with parents to discover the unique strengths and inclinations of their children, and help the children develop these strengths, be it academic or in other areas," she said. 

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