Parliament: Schools vet external vendors before engaging them, says Heng Swee Keat

A staff member from the Changi Airport Group role-plays with NorthLight School students during the Interview Skills Workshop  on July 16, 2014. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
A staff member from the Changi Airport Group role-plays with NorthLight School students during the Interview Skills Workshop  on July 16, 2014. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Education Ministry has in place a vetting process to evaluate external vendors before schools engage them to conduct enrichment programmes and workshops, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said in Parliament on Monday.

"Schools may interview potential instructors, look into their background, take feedback from other schools or organisations that have previously engaged the instructor, or request for a lesson observation," said Mr Heng.

Mr Heng was responding to a question from Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, and Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC), who asked about the vetting process after a Hwa Chong Institution student had attracted headlines last month for criticising on Facebook a relationship programme run by an external vendor in her school.

The first-year junior college student, Agatha Tan, 17, had taken issue with the teaching of Focus on the Family Singapore, a pro-family Christian charity, and said it was sexist and reinforced gender stereotypes.

While the case was not specifically mentioned in Monday's Parliament session, Mr Heng noted that students may take to social media to feedback about programmes they have attended.

The ministry "discourage students from providing comments on social media", he said. "There is an existing channel for students to provide feedback to teachers to see how classes can continue to be improved," he added.

Mr Heng said schools engage external vendors for enrichment programmes "when there is value in tapping on the external expertise of those with the prerequisite professional training or relevant life experiences to complement the teacher's role".

These enrichment activities include those in the areas of self management and social skills, sports and fitness, and aesthetics and enterprise, which help develop a student's communication, leadership and collaborative skills, added Mr Heng.

"Schools may subsequently have their teachers conduct the enrichment programmes and workshops when they have built their own expertise in a defined area," he said.