Economics teachers win awards for creative apps

Mr Gilbert Ng (left) of Hwa Chong Institution and Mr Koh Weining of Temasek Junior College received the Outstanding Economics Teacher Award, given by the Economic Society of Singapore, at the 12th Singapore Economic Policy Forum held at the Regent Si
Mr Gilbert Ng (left) of Hwa Chong Institution and Mr Koh Weining of Temasek Junior College received the Outstanding Economics Teacher Award, given by the Economic Society of Singapore, at the 12th Singapore Economic Policy Forum held at the Regent Singapore hotel yesterday.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Recipients invented ways to help students keep up with lessons, aid teachers in marking

Hwa Chong Institution economics teacher Gilbert Ng, 39, noticed that second-year students in the junior college sometimes had to miss class if they were competing in inter-school tournaments during the sports season.

To help them keep up with their studies, he worked with the National Institute of Education to create an app where students can access material like quizzes and tutorial videos on their mobile phones. The app has been in use since 2017.

Mr Ng was one of two teachers who received the Outstanding Economics Teacher Award at the 12th Singapore Economic Policy Forum held at the Regent Singapore hotel yesterday.

The other recipient was Mr Koh Weining, 35, of Temasek Junior College, who has been actively involved in piloting and refining the MineGap app, which helps teachers mark scripts and give feedback more efficiently.

Mr Koh said teachers sometimes get frustrated with pen-and-paper marking, having to write very similar comments while struggling with limited space to do so.

The MineGap app, which Mr Koh developed with Mr Ng and another teacher, allows teachers to use a hashtag function from which they can retrieve saved comments to customise them to students' needs.

"Students have benefited from the more substantive feedback," said Mr Koh, adding that the app was introduced last year.

The award, given by the Economic Society of Singapore, recognises teachers from secondary schools, junior colleges or centralised institutes who have contributed significantly towards the teaching and learning of economics in schools.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat acknowledged the teachers' achievements in his speech at the event yesterday.

 
 

He cited words from the late Professor Steve Goldman in his first economics class on how economics is not about money, but understanding the way incentives shape behaviours and influence outcomes.

Mr Chee noted that economics alone cannot solve the challenges of allocation and redistribution of resources in society, amid widening income gaps and unequal distribution.

This is because countries will need to have the "right politics and, also, a set of social values which help to build broad-based support for these redistribution policies".

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat noted that economics alone cannot solve the challenges of allocation and redistribution of resources in society, amid widening income gaps and unequal distribution... But a good understanding of the subject can help with designing schemes to effectively redistribute resources.

But a good understanding of the subject can help with designing schemes to effectively redistribute resources, he told the forum.

He added that economic growth is still required to tackle these issues. "When we have zero or very low economic growth, we are essentially faced with a zero-sum game."

Such trends can make the political environment more contentious, reducing the available space to debate and solve problems constructively.

Growth is also needed to instil optimism in younger people - especially when cities in the region are growing and offering more opportunities - so that Singapore remains vibrant and attractive to talent.

Failure to do so could lead to the Republic becoming a "sleepy old folks home", lacking in vitality and dynamism, said Mr Chee.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2019, with the headline 'Economics teachers win awards for creative apps'. Print Edition | Subscribe