Good Morning Cher: Looking back on 50 years of education through roving exhibition

Mr Jumaat Masdawood, a pioneer teacher, doing gardening at his house in Telok Kurau.
Mr Jumaat Masdawood, a pioneer teacher, doing gardening at his house in Telok Kurau. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - Despite starting his career as a primary school teacher in 1965, Mr Jumaat Masdawood went on to study woodwork and metalwork so he could teach such technical skills to secondary school students.

"At that time, Singapore was moving into its new industrialised phase, and they needed technical teachers," he recalled. Later, when Singapore needed graduate teachers, Mr Jumaat enrolled at the National University of Singapore at the age of 35.

"It was a little difficult at first after 16 years out of school," he said with a smile. "But when you have been teaching for 16 years, you ask yourself, 'Where am I going?' So I answered their appeal for graduate teachers."

His story is one of many featured in the Good Morning Cher: Our Schools, Our Teachers, Our Stories exhibition, commemorating 50 years of education.

Organised by the Ministry of Education as part of their SG50 celebrations, it includes stories of pioneer teachers like Mr Jumaat, information about education then and now,as well as school memorabilia, artefacts and photographs.

"The education system has undergone many changes. We have new and innovative programmes, we have created many pathways for our students to develop," Education Minister Heng Swee Keat told reporters at the official launch of the exhibition.

"But at the same time, the basic principles have not changed. We continue to put a strong emphasis on developing every child to bring out the best in every child. We continue to constantly innovate so that we can have better programmes that can meet the changes in our society and our economy."

He hoped that through the exhibition, parents and children could share and bond over their respective experiences in education.

One innovative pioneer featured in the exhibition featured is Dr Kho Tek Hong, the man behind Singapore's world-renowned approach to learning mathematics through model diagrams. He started as a pre-university mathematics teacher in 1969, but later joined the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore and was tasked with improving the mathematics standard of primary school pupils in the early 1980s.

"It's difficult to do mathematics, especially solving word problems, because it's abstract. Many children in those days also had language difficulties," recalled Dr Kho, who is now 69. The new approach involved using picture cut-outs of animals and objects - "because it's more concrete" -followed by the model diagrams used today.

The free exhibition runs from 12pm to 9pm at Changi City Point, until July 12. It will then be at Westgate from July 24 to 26, Ang Mo Kio Hub from Aug 14 to 16, and Suntec City Mall from Aug 28 to 30.

Students from primary and secondary schools in each region will be there to showcase their work and conduct activities for visitors. At Changi City Point, for instance, St Hilda's Primary School pupils will show how information technology is used in studying science.