Emphasise students' holistic growth: PM Lee

Eleven-year-old Benedict Sum, from Montfort Junior School's string ensemble, taking a wefie with PM Lee at the centennial celebrations yesterday. With them was the school's principal Wilbur Wong (far left).
Eleven-year-old Benedict Sum, from Montfort Junior School's string ensemble, taking a wefie with PM Lee at the centennial celebrations yesterday. With them was the school's principal Wilbur Wong (far left).ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Build character and inculcate strong values so they have sense of belonging to S'pore, he urges

While students will continue to be given a strong academic foundation, there is also a need to emphasise their holistic development.

This will ensure they have the skills and values they need for life, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

"We need to build character and inculcate strong values in our children... and provide them with a broad range of experiences and encourage their interest in non-academic areas," he said at a dinner to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of Montfort schools.

"So that they have a sense of belonging to Singapore, so that they want to help fellow Singaporeans and contribute to society and to the school," he added.

He was speaking a day after the Education Ministry announced key changes to the Singapore education landscape, so as to shift the focus from an overemphasis on grades to building aptitude and skills.

It was announced that from 2021, the Primary School Leaving Examination aggregate score will be replaced with wider scoring bands, similar to what is used for the O and A levels. The aim is to reduce the stress pupils face in trying to chase that final mark, and give them time to develop their interests.

Discretionary admission schemes which admit students into schools based on their aptitude in a particular field will also be expanded in the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics and universities.

During the fund-raising dinner at Four Seasons Hotel yesterday, Mr Lee highlighted examples of how the Montfort schools have focused on values-driven education and character development.

Over the last decade, the schools have been partnering the Children's Cancer Foundation (CCF) to raise funds for young cancer patients.

The schools were used as a site for students and members of the public to shave their hair for CCF's Hair for Hope event.

Besides raising close to $40,000 last year, the project also helped students to empathise with children with cancer and build compassion, said Mr Lee.

He also gave other examples of Montfort students who demonstrate leadership skills, even at a young age.

One of them is Princeton Toh, a Primary 5 pupil at Montfort Junior School. Apart from excelling academically and being a prefect, he recently led his peers in a project called "Friends of Singa".

The project aimed to show more appreciation to non-teaching staff such as administrators, cleaners and canteen vendors by getting pupils to write appreciation notes below the names and photos of the staff who were listed on posters.

"I noticed some students were walking past the cleaners and ignoring them or not saying anything, so by putting up their photos and names, at least students can greet them when they see them to give them some respect," said Princeton, 11.

Mr Lee said that good educators, such as the late Mr Teo Kah Leng, played a vital role in moulding students into the people they are today.

Mr Teo was a general paper and arts teacher at Montfort Secondary as well as the principal of Montfort Primary for almost 40 years.

Back in the 1920s, his students preferred to speak Teochew and did not pay attention in class when he taught English.

Undeterred, Mr Teo continued to coach them after they graduated from school so that their command of English would be good enough for work. He also wrote the lyrics of the school anthem, The Song Of The Brave.

At the centennial celebrations yesterday, attended by former Cabinet minister Lim Boon Heng and other Montfort alumni, Mr Lee also launched the Montfort 100 Fund.

Money from the fund will go towards improving school facilities and providing financial assistance to needy students, as well as developing students further through scholarships and bursaries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 10, 2016, with the headline 'Emphasise students' holistic growth: PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe