Taste of poly life helps to motivate students

It was Aqil Luqman B. Zamberi's first time in a polytechnic.

What he saw from the campus at Singapore Polytechnic made the 15-year-old determined to study there in the future.

He was taking part in a programme run by his school Zhenghua Secondary, which will receive the Lee Hsien Loong Award for Innovations in the Normal Course this year.

It has been praised for thinking creatively to help academically weaker students.

Aqil was one of his school's Secondary 3 Normal (Academic) students who spent five days at Singapore Polytechnic this year learning about tourism and hospitality.

There, he experienced fine dining at the polytechnic's Graduates' Guild and observed how a restaurant was run.

He said: "The place was big, the school environment was very nice and the teachers were friendly."

On one of the days, he even went to Bugis and spent a few hours with his schoolmates speaking to tourists, finding out why they chose Singapore as a holiday destination.

"This helped me to gain knowledge about how it feels like to be a polytechnic student," added Aqil.

Zhenghua Secondary principal Fiona Yeo said the programme aimed to let students "experience life in higher education".

"We want to encourage them to set goals, work hard, put in effort so that they can progress to the polytechnics."

The Lee Hsien Loong Award for Innovations in the Normal Course honours schools that look for ways to motivate students. It will also be given to Temasek Secondary.

Each winning school gets $3,000 to fund its programmes.

It is one of the prizes handed out by the Ministry of Education each year to recognise best practices.

This year, a total of 293 schools have won awards, and 23 will receive theirs from Education Minister Heng Swee Keat on Wednesday at the ministry's workplan seminar.

Madam Yeo said her school runs programmes like sports activities to build leadership and character. It also has vocational training and career guidance workshops for Normal stream students.

For instance, Sec 3 Normal (Technical) students get to learn various skills like creating smartphone applications, hair-styling, cooking, producing video games and being a DJ.

"We are preparing them for the world beyond school," said Madam Yeo. "We hope values like resilience and responsibility, which they learn, will be transferred to their studies."

Temasek Secondary also runs leadership programmes, which give students a chance to plan and carry out community projects.

For instance, Sec 4 Normal (Technical) student Lim Jing Heng learnt how to plan a clean-up at East Coast Park in August last year.

"I thought cleaning the beach would be easy, but it was challenging. It involved planning logistics, transport and deciding which materials to use," said the 16-year-old.

Jing Heng, who is a student leader and also the vice-captain of his school's canoeing team, said: "School has helped me build my confidence, learn leadership skills and values like teamwork and compassion."


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