Students must be innovators for Singapore to succeed: Acting Education Minister Ng Chee Meng

Acting Minister for Education Ng Chee Meng trying a game organised by pupils from Frontier Primary’s Red Cross CCA on Oct 8, 2015.
Acting Minister for Education Ng Chee Meng trying a game organised by pupils from Frontier Primary’s Red Cross CCA on Oct 8, 2015.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore needs to nurture more innovators for it to continue doing well in the future, said Acting Minister for Education Ng Chee Meng on Tuesday.

The challenge, he said, is for principals to make schools conducive for developing students who not only know how to solve problems, but can create and invent.

Mr Ng, who was addressing educators at the annual appointment and appreciation ceremony for principals at the Shangri-La Hotel, urged them to consider their roles as Singapore enters its 51st year.

At the ceremony, a total of 63 principals were appointed, with 22 of them new appointments.

The country has built a strong education system, but it must stay relevant and not rest on its laurels, said Mr Ng.

He cited two examples of homegrown entrepreneurs who have gone global, such as water services company Hyflux founder Olivia Lum, and Mr Tan Min-Liang, co-founder and chief executive of gaming company Razer.

"Very few education systems worldwide have achieved this capability of developing innovators," he said, adding that people tend to think of school leaders and teachers as "traditionally conservative and risk-averse".

But Mr Ng, who oversees pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, and the junior college level, said students must be encouraged to push boundaries, and have a school environment that gives them something to believe in and be inspired by so that they can contribute to something.

Schools should also equip students with curiosity and the ability to identify needs and spot gaps that are not as obvious, he said.

He added that schools must go beyond imparting head knowledge through history and social studies lessons and help students feel a sense of commitment and belonging to Singapore.

This common identity, seen in the outpouring of grief during former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's death this year, will hold Singapore together, he said.