Educators crucial in building a culture beyond academic qualifications: Heng Swee Keat

SINGAPORE - Teachers and principals play a crucial role in helping Singaporeans look beyond academic qualifications and build skills, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Friday.

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.

Mr Heng was speaking at a graduation dinner at The Regent Singapore Hotel for the six-month-long National Institute of Education Leaders in Education Programme. The programme trains vice-principals before they take over as principals. A total of 35 school leaders, including five from Brunei, received their graduation certificates.

Mr Heng said educators can expect more support from the ministry.

Over the next five years, teachers will have more opportunities for subject specialisation, be able to network with those teaching the same subjects, and receive more mentoring support, he said.

Mr Heng 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 asked educators to reflect on the educational and career guidance that is given to students.

"In society today, there unfortunately exists an unhealthy lack of regard for certain jobs," said Mr Heng, adding that it shows in the way some people treat those who hold jobs that are perceived to be of a low status.

But instead of asking students to strive for tried and tested routes, teachers should help them discover the path best suited for them, said Mr Heng.

"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.

He acknowledged that shifting the mindsets of parents, students, and even fellow educators will be tough, but called it a work in progress.

"What you do now in your schools has a lasting impact on each individual child," he said.

These efforts will help build a system that supports the recommendations made by the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review report.

The report aimed to enhance the applied education model in the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education and shift away from the idea that a university degree is crucial for success.