Mr Hawazi Daipi,

Senior Parliamentary Secretary

Mr Gan Kim Yong,

Chairman, Group Parliamentary Committee on Education

General Lim Chuan Poh,

Permanent Secretary

Mrs Tan Ching Yee,

Second Permanent Secretary,

Miss Seah Jiak Choo,

Director-General of Education


Colleagues, Ladies & Gentlemen



Achieving Quality: Bottom Up Initiative,

Top Down Support

Focusing on Quality and Choice

1.                 We have embarked on a new phase in education in recent years.  We are shifting focus from quantity to quality, and from efficiency to choice in learning.  We have made many refinements in recent years, but they boil down to this basic shift in focus  -  from an efficiency-driven system to one focused on quality and choice in learning.

2.                 The changes are percolating through our schools and tertiary institutions.  We are progressively shifting the balance in education, from learning content to developing a habit of inquiry.  We are renewing our emphasis on an all-round education, so that we can help our young develop the strength of character that will help them ride out difficulties and live life to the fullest.  And we are injecting fluidity throughout the system  -  recognising more talents besides academic achievements, providing more flexibility in the school curriculum and streaming system, and introducing  new pathways  -  all to help all our students discover their interests and talents, and know that through our education system they can go as far as they can.

3.                 We have to press ahead with this new strategy in education.  We must give young Singaporeans a quality of education that will prepare them for life, much more than prepare them for examinations.  We must give each and every student a first class education.  As PM put it in his National Day Rally speech last month, we need a mountain range of different talents, each one of us being the best that we can be, not just one or two peaks.

Bottom-up Initiative, Top Down Support

4.                 But there is no large fix in education that will bring in the improvements that we want.  No big system-wide solution, like the introduction of streaming in the 1980s to reduce the huge attrition of students from the system.  The days for large fixes are over.

5.                 The improvements in quality as we go forward will have to come from innovations on the ground  -   new teaching practices, new curricula responding to a school�s unique needs, and new options and chances given to students.  Quality will be driven by teachers and leaders in schools, with ideas bubbling up through the system rather than being pushed down from the top.

6.                 Our challenges are not different from that of several other Asian countries, like Japan, China, Korea and India.  We start like them from a centralised education system, with a heavy focus on national examinations.  The system has its strengths.  It produces people who are able to focus on a task and get the job done.  But in Singapore as in these other Asian nations, we know that our young will need much more than exam skills to prepare themselves for the future  -  a future driven by innovation, by doing things differently and with verve and imagination, not by replicating what has been done before.

7.                 I visited Japan in July this year with MOE officials and Principals involved in planning our strategies to implement the Teach Less, Learn More (TLLM) initiative.  Our interactions with education leaders and teachers in Japan were instructive.  The Japanese have implemented changes in education with great zeal.  They made huge cuts in the curriculum, reduced curriculum time, and introduced new, integrated learning subjects in all schools.  The changes were top-down, and implemented across the system.  But there appears to have been little buy-in on the ground.  Many school leaders and academics have expressed great discomfort with the changes, which they see as one-size changes for a very diverse student population.  At the same time, they have watched Japan�s international rankings in math, science and even first language decline over the years.

8.                 Japan remains the most innovative society in Asia by far, in areas as far afield as manufacturing, architecture and fashion.  But they are losing confidence in their ability to stay ahead, and in the educational reforms that were aimed at doing so.  From what we observed, they have excellent leaders and teachers in their schools.  But the reforms were receiving little support, because they were implemented in a uniform fashion, top down.  There was little enthusiasm on the ground, and little ownership.  We can learn from their experience.

9.                 We must recognise that every school is different.  Students vary in their interests and learning styles.  Some learn in a very different way from others, although they may be just as bright.  Teachers and schools must make the call on what is most meaningful for their students  -  what will help them learn better, and what will shape strength of character.  They are in the best position to develop new approaches to engage their students.  Many of our schools are already doing this today.  At the primary level, we are seeing numerous innovations on the ground, in the SEED programme for lower primary classes.  Some primary schools are now developing niche areas of their own, and obtaining additional support from MOE through the Programme for School-Based Excellence (PSE).  More secondary schools are customising the curriculum for various subjects so that students can learn more effectively.  Many are developing their own programmes to develop life skills amongst students, such as through the arts or outdoor experiences.

10.             MOE�s role will be to provide top-down support for bottom-up initiatives.  We want to give teachers more space and time to think through improvements in what they do and to be able to engage with students individually.  We also want to create for our students a greater flexibility of options, in what they want to learn and how.  Quality in education will flow from schools and teachers taking ownership of the changes and experiments that they wish to implement, and from learners making their own choices.  Ownership in schools is key as we go forward in education.

11.             There are therefore two key thrusts that underpin our efforts going forward.  We will provide greater support for our teachers and leaders in schools; and we will provide more flexibility and choice for all our learners, regardless of which school or course they might be in.  I will summarise our intent on each of the two thrusts, before elaborating on the specific initiatives we are taking.

Greater Support For Teachers And Leaders In Schools

12.             The teacher is at the heart of �Teach Less, Learn More� (TLLM).  TLLM is not a call for �teacher do less�.  It is a call to educators to teach better, to engage our students and prepare them for life, rather than to teach for tests and examinations.

13.             This is why TLLM really goes to the core of quality in education.  It is about a richer interaction between teacher and student  -  about touching hearts and engaging minds, as today�s seminar theme puts it.

14.             In order for our teachers to �teach less�, that is, to better engage our students in their own learning through more effective pedagogies, they actually need more time, not less.  They need more time to reflect, to practise professional sharing, and to interact with their students.

15.             We will therefore give our teachers more time and space.  We will do this first, by reducing the amount of content in the curriculum so that teachers have space to make learning more engaging and effective.  Further, we will build space into our teachers� weekly timetable to give them the time to reflect and share.  Schools will get more teachers, progressively, so that they can make it possible for each teacher to have this additional time.

16.             We will prioritise new teacher resources by providing them first to schools that are ready to prototype their ideas for TLLM and bring in new school practices.  We will start by providing additional resources to 20 primary schools and 20 secondary schools.  The best practices developed in these prototyping schools can then be shared, adapted and further customised by other schools across the system.  We will have many prototypes, different designs of TLLM, eventually spreading into a mosaic of practices across our schools.

More Flexibility And Choice For All Our Learners

17.             The second thrust is to provide further flexibility and choice for all our students.  We need more diversity in our schools to help our young discover different talents amongst themselves, and to have meaningful choices about the kind of education that they want to pursue.

18.             We build on the significant new choices that we have already introduced   -   such as the Integrated Programme schools and Specialised Independent Schools; the broader-based frameworks for admission into secondary schools, JCs and universities; the greater latitude that students have to take Higher Mother Tongue and Third Languages; and the flexibility offered to Normal course students to take some subjects at a more advanced level or pace.

19.             We will add to this diversity, and open more gates for students who want to take a different path.  We will introduce further flexibility into the Normal (Academic) Course, to allow some students to proceed faster, along a curriculum tailored to the �O� levels.  We will allow some schools to introduce new �O� level subjects from next year, catering to students with special talents and interests.  We will also study how to enable selected schools to offer niche programmes in collaboration with the polytechnics that cater to students with an interest in applied or practice-oriented learning.  And we will allow the polytechnics themselves to select students with special talents and achievements, besides their �O� level examination results.

20.             Together, our two thrusts  -  providing greater support for  initiatives owned by teachers and leaders in schools, and giving our learners greater flexibility and choice  -  will allow us to create new peaks of excellence in Singapore education.  Together with the other initiatives we have taken in recent years, they will bring a level of quality, diversity and choice into education  -  rare for a centrally-funded, state education system elsewhere in the world.

21.             Every school must own this drive for quality, diversity and choice in education.  Then our school landscape will itself be a mountain range of excellence  -  not just an Everest, K2 and Kanchenjunga but an entire Himalayan range, with different shapes and colours, inspiring all our young to follow their passions and climb as far as they can.

22.             Let me now elaborate on our specific initiatives we are taking.

Greater Support For Teachers and Leaders in Schools

23.               Earlier this year we set up a TLLM Steering Committee headed by Mrs Tan Ching Yee, Second Permanent Secretary, and Miss Seah Jiak Choo, Director General of Education, to explore how MOE and schools� efforts to realise TLLM could be coordinated and supported.  The team consulted numerous teachers and school leaders and the NIE, and sent study missions out to several countries to see what we could learn from a range of international practices.

24.             The key recommendation arising from the study was that we should provide more support to teachers for TLLM to succeed.  Teachers needed more time and space to tailor their teaching to suit their students� learning needs and get to know their students better.

25.             We will provide teachers greater support in the following 4 ways:

a    First, we will reduce content so as to give teachers more flexibility to customise their teaching;

b    Second, we will free up more time for teachers to know their students better, reflect on their teaching and conduct more professional sharing;

c    Third, we will enhance teachers� professional development, especially for beginning teachers; and

d    Fourth, we will establish an Education Leadership Development Centre to provide the focus and resources to develop top quality school leaders, leaders who can provide the best seed beds for teachers to try out ideas and experiment.

Creation of �White Space� Through Content Reduction

26.             Some schools are already taking bold steps to customise their curriculum to meet the needs of their students.  I thought it will be easiest to give a couple of examples.

27.             One school that has made significant changes in its curriculum to meet the needs of its students is Yishun Town Secondary School.  The teachers found that students were unable to sustain an interest in the humanities curriculum in their lower secondary classes, and asked themselves how it could be improved.  They decided to downsize content in order to focus on skills, and give teachers more space to get students engaged.

28.             I asked the school if we could see what goes on in the classrooms and why they decided to do this.  They agreed, so let�s see what Yishun Town Secondary has done:

(Start of video clip)

Mrs P Gopalan, HOD/Humanities: �Our students in YT felt that there was too much content to memorize in history and geography and as a result they often lost interest.

The teachers then customized the curriculum to incorporate more skills in content teaching.  To further instil interest in students, lessons were taken beyond the classroom where students discovered new knowledge for themselves.

To complement our focus on skills, we introduced open book assessments that used case studies or scenarios.  Students then had to apply the knowledge learnt instead of just recalling facts.

We find that students have a deeper understanding of the lessons as well as a better grasp of the skills.�

(End of video clip)

29.             Another example of a school that has reworked the curriculum is Rulang Primary School.  The teachers got together and thought hard about how to provide a vibrant learning environment for Primary 1 pupils.  They took the curriculum, and reorganised along lines that would appeal to students and better engage them in learning.  They created activities that could arouse the interest of their young students, and brought the learning of language and process skills into a context that students found relevant and enjoyable.  As a result, Rulang found that students acquired a love for learning in Primary 1.  Many other primary schools will I am sure find this familiar in what they themselves have been doing.  Let�s listen to Ms Janice Beh, Rulang�s HOD for Niche and Innovation:

(Start of video clip)

Ms Janice Beh, HOD, Niche and Innovation: �We envisioned a culture where pupils are passionate, confident and self-motivated learners when we first went about redesigning our curriculum to encompass the essence of TLLM.

We discovered things which arouse pupils' curiosity and desire for knowledge, such as robotics and speech & drama.  We also studied factors that motivate pupils, including their needs for peer recognition, and cross-referenced that with their learning styles.

To complement the curriculum changes, we also worked on the creation of an environment conducive for pupils' sociological, physical and psychological development, so that each child can develop his potential.

The implementation has been a rewarding one.  We have noticed that pupils are more enthusiastic about pursuing their interests and are more daring to voice their opinions.  The nurturing of responsible, thinking individuals is what we believe education is all about.�                           

(End of video clip)

30.             I have no doubt that other schools are taking a fresh look at their curriculum and pedagogy like Rulang Primary and Yishun Town Secondary.  But we can do more to spur our schools in this direction.

31.             As a start, we will give teachers greater flexibility by reducing curriculum content in the next few years, so that they get �white space� or more room to customise their teaching within the same curriculum time.  The cuts will free up 10% to 20% of curriculum time in content-based subjects at primary and secondary school.  (The new �A� level curriculum that will be introduced for JC1 students in 2006 will see a 15-20% cut in content overall.)  The cuts will be progressive, starting with some subjects at the lower primary and lower secondary levels next year.  Content that has been removed will not be examined in the PSLE or 'O' Level examinations.  By 2010, content cuts would have been made in all content-based subjects from primary to secondary levels.  The cuts will be undertaken carefully and judiciously, so as to ensure that our students remain well-prepared for a post-secondary education and are still able to meet high international standards.

Giving Teachers More Time and Space

32.             We will do more to give our teachers the time to reflect on their teaching and plan their lessons.  We will free up an average of 2 hours per week for each teacher.  We will do so in two ways:

33.             First, by giving teachers 1 hour �timetabled time� per week to reflect, plan their lessons, and engage in professional sharing.  This hour will come from within each teacher�s current total �timetabled� time per week.  This ensures that the baseline 1 hour set aside for professional planning and collaboration does not add to their current teaching load.

34.             To provide teachers with 1 hour �timetabled time� per week, MOE will provide more teachers to schools and improve pupil-teacher ratios.  Schools will be able to provide for this 1 hour �timetabled time� in phases over the next few years, beginning with some schools in 2006.

35.             Second, all schools will each receive a Co-curricular Programme Executive (CCPE) by 2007 to assist teachers in non-teaching duties, particularly in the administration of Co-Curricular Activities and Community Involvement Programmes.  This is expected to free up another 1 hour per teacher weekly, on average.

36.             These initiatives will add to the other resources that we have committed to provide schools.  Secondary schools will get a full-time school counsellor each next year, and every primary school and JC by 2008.  MOE has begun recruiting, training, and deploying counsellors to schools for this purpose.

37.             The Adjunct Teachers Programme, which seeks to attract former trained teachers to join the teaching profession, is also off to a good start.  550 adjunct teachers have been taken in since we began recruitment this year.

38.             We have also been recruiting and deploying Special Needs Officers in 14 selected mainstream schools, to help students with mild to moderate dyslexia and Autistic Spectrum Disorder integrate better.  The Special Needs Officer will complement what our teachers do to help students with these special needs.

39.             Taken together, the additional manpower we are providing schools will make them better resourced than ever before.  They will help teachers focus on delivering quality.

Strengthen Focus on Professional Development

40.             We will strengthen the professional development of teachers, to help them understand and use a wider repertoire of pedagogies and assessment modes to customise their lessons and meet their students� needs.  We have seen how Project SEED has unleashed some of this potential in our teachers.

41.             We will set up one Centre of Excellence for Professional Development in each zone.  It will serve as a focal point for sharing of best practices, and promote a system of continuous professional development that is more organically linked to actual practices in our schools.

42.             We will also deploy additional teachers to enable our schools to offload their more experienced teachers such as Senior Teachers and HODs, so that they can mentor teachers who are new in service.  Some schools have already started this rationalisation of teachers� workload.  They are giving the most experienced or best teachers time to coach the younger teachers and help them to absorb the ethos and values of the profession.  That way, overall quality goes up in teaching.

School Leadership Development

43.             To make all these changes come together, however, school leaders are critical.  Our leaders have to be well-informed, confident and supportive of their teachers.  They have to enthuse and energise their teachers, and give them the space to try out new approaches.  They have to keep their focus on the desired outcomes in education.  They must have the gumption to focus on things in education that are not measured in grades and awards  -  things like whether the average student gets an all round education although it does not show up in victories in inter-school competitions, or things like whether students are given the choice of subjects they want although it�s not going to help in the school rankings.

44.             MOE will establish an Education Leadership Development Centre (ELDC) by end-2006 to strengthen the professional development of our potential and current leaders.  The Centre will allow us to provide systematic and high-level oversight of leadership development in the education service.  It will also devote resources to research on leadership models and approaches in education.  We will leverage on our unique strength of close links among MOE, NIE and our schools to bring together the perspectives of policy makers, researchers and practitioners as we develop this Centre.

Greater Emphasis And Ownership In Character Development

45.             We must redouble our emphasis on character development.  But MOE cannot dictate how schools should do this.  Schools have to develop their own practices, and do what they consider most meaningful for their students.

46.             We will give schools more ownership and encourage greater emphasis on character development.  We all know that character development is much more than just the weekly Civics and Moral Education lessons that are timetabled.  It is not something that we can reduce to black and white in a textbook, or put into a neat package for classroom delivery.  It requires a whole-school approach.

47.             I know that some schools sometimes substitute their CME lessons for remedial lessons in other subjects.  PE is another period sometimes sacrificed.  Schools have to send very clear signals to their students about the importance of character development.  Otherwise, we risk producing a generation of exam-smart students without the courage of their convictions, or the resolve to stand together in difficulties.

48.             The whole-school approach for Character Development will need to involve both the formal and informal curriculum, and be embedded in the daily activities of the school for the students.  School leaders must shape an approach to character development that is suitable for their students, and champion the effort amongst their staff and other stakeholders of the school.  Finally, the core values that are espoused by the school have to direct decisions and guide behaviour at every level of interaction in the school, between students, teachers, school leaders, parents and other stakeholders.

49.              One school that has adopted such an approach is Westwood Secondary School.  Each day, instead of rushing back to their classrooms to start their lessons after flag-raising, students participate in dedicated activities that aim to build their character and confidence � a period which the school calls �Westwood Bytes�.

50.             On Mondays, the Principal, Mrs Betty Low, would highlight a few inspirational stories and celebrate school successes  -  as many of you would do.  On Tuesdays, the whole school engages in physical exercise, led by PE teachers and student helpers.  On Wednesdays, every class takes turns to perform their own scripts in front of the school, building up the communication skills and confidence of each student.  On Thursdays, form teachers spend time to listen to their students� needs and provide coaching for personal effectiveness within each class.  And on Fridays, the school has a programme called �In-Touch� -- a student-led forum that discusses key issues of the day.  It is a powerful platform for students to develop critical thinking skills and the capacity to express their views and opinions coherently and with conviction.

51.             In addition to �Westwood Bytes� I understand students in the school have one period each week dedicated to international folk dancing.  This helps develop students� awareness of different cultures, their psychomotor skills, as well as teamwork and creativity.

52.             Taken individually, the things that Westwood Secondary does are not unique.  But it�s the coming together of these elements, and the clear and sustained focus of the school on developing the character of their students that makes a difference.

53.             To achieve our desired outcomes of education, schools must place more emphasis on this whole-school approach to character development.  We have to look at the backgrounds and  experiences of our students, bring them out of their usual selves, put them through  new challenges and the difficult experiences that in one way or another shape strength of character, give them re, sponsibilities, and help them develop a deep sense of belonging to the school.  School leaders will work out how best to do this in their own schools  -  how best to bring together classroom practices, CCAs and the informal curriculum to create a whole-school environment that builds character in every student.

Making CME More Relevant and Engaging

54.             Within this whole-school approach, schools should also relook at what we do with the dedicated curriculum time that we provide through the CME syllabus.

55.             Several schools are doing so.  Again, an example, in Riverside Secondary School.  Their team of teachers got together and thought how best to integrate Character Development into their CME lessons, and do it in a way that students find engaging.  They decided that it would be useful to create a platform for their students to speak openly about the issues they face � such as the physical and emotional changes they go through as adolescents.

56.             Let�s listen to Mr Mohd Sani, a Senior Teacher, share with us what goes on at Riverside Secondary:

(Start of video clip)

Mr Mohd Sani, Senior Teacher: �We realized that the issues that our students face today as teenagers are complex and we needed to bring these issues out to the fore and discuss it openly with our students.

The character development package needed to be relevant to our students, to the realities they encountered on the media, their neighbourhood and their peers.  We felt also that it was important to build their sense of self efficacy and self-esteem.

Our teachers got together, took elements from the CME and Lifeskills package and designed our own customized approach to Character Development.

We see today, students who are more confident, able to work in teams and are prepared to assume positions of leadership.�

Li Jun Yang: �The lessons really engaged me.  It boosted my SELF ESTEEM and taught me to stand up after I fall and I always tell myself, �just take it!�  If I do well, I will strive on whereas if I don�t do so well, I turn it into a learning opportunity to succeed.�                (End of video clip)

Social-Emotional Learning

57.             MOE has reviewed the CME syllabus to make it more flexible for teachers, and to make CME more relevant and applicable for our students.

58.             Besides teaching the right values, the new CME syllabus will give attention to the learning of social emotional skills like managing your emotions, making responsible decisions, establishing positive relationships, and handling challenging situations.  These social-emotional skills are important, to help students live out their values through the ups and downs of life.

59.             We have developed a framework for social emotional learning that will be integrated within the revised CME syllabus, which will be ready in 2007.  However schools can take greater ownership of CME from next year, to adapt it to their students� needs the way Riverside has done.

Flexibility and Choice for All Students

60.             We are bringing further diversity into our mainstream secondary school landscape.  We are encouraging more schools to offer new subjects and electives that are educationally meaningful, and which give their students choices beyond the core academic subjects that are essential to a good secondary level education.  Some of these new subjects will be of an academic nature, but others could be applied or practice-oriented.  Either way, they help us unlock different talents in our young.  They also allow more students to work hard at what they enjoy and have a passion for.

Schools Offering New 'O' Level Subjects

61.             I spoke last year about MOE allowing some schools to offer new �O� level subjects apart from the regular menu.  For a start, schools have been allowed to choose subjects offered by the Cambridge International Examinations.

62.             I am glad that 12 secondary schools[1] will be offering 3 new GCE & IGCSE �O� level subjects  -  Computer Studies, Drama and Economics - from 2006.  Several of these schools already have well-developed programmes in these subject areas, and offering the new subject as an examinable subject at the �O� levels was the natural progression.

63.             St Anthony�s Canossian Secondary, for example, already has a Performing Arts Education Programme for all students in the first two years of their secondary schooling.  Drama was initially conceived a few years ago as an inter-disciplinary programme which merged the Oral aspect of Language learning with the Play component in the study of Literature.  Since 2003, the school has taught Drama as a subject with a structured curriculum within school hours.  With the experience built up and interest generated amongst its students and parents, it was therefore natural for St Anthony�s Canossian to now offer Drama as an �O� Level subject to its students.

64.             To help us visualise what the programme will look like in the school, I�ve also asked them for a video clip:

(Start of video clip)

Kang Chee Hui, Teacher: �The drama programme in our school started in 2000 as an effort to make literature accessible to all our students at the lower secondary levels.  We have seen that drama has inculcated the spirit of creativity and exploration in our students as well as develop their confidence and interest in the performing arts.

Over the years we have received overwhelming response for the subject to be extended to the upper sec levels.

So we are really glad that we are now able to offer drama as an O-level subject to our students who would like to pursue it further.�

Yeo Jia Le Gladys: �I enjoy drama because it is a subject that I can be creative and imaginative in.  I can be whoever I want to be.  Drama gives me a boost in confidence and self-esteem.  I feel part of my self when I'm on stage and of course, the role that I'm playing.  Taking drama as 'O' level subject gives me more window of opportunities and prompts more to both pathway for my academic life and beyond.�                   (End of video clip)

65.             Over time, I expect several more schools to want to offer additional subjects, allowing them to develop niches that give our students greater choice, and that mark them out on the school landscape.

Update on New N(T) Curriculum

66.              Another area of curriculum innovation is the new N(T) curriculum that we will be rolling out from 2007.  It will be more meaningful and relevant to students� everyday lives.  It will include more group work and presentations, more creativity, more hands-on activities and use of IT, which will make learning more engaging for our N(T) students � what we call "active learning in a realistic context."  The new curriculum will also have less pen-and-paper tests for N(T) students, and more authentic assessments through individual and team coursework.

67.             By 2007, all schools will start using the new N(T) curriculum in the core subjects.  Another important element of the new N(T) curriculum will be its Elective Modules (or EMs).  While MOE revamps the current N(T) syllabuses to make them more  relevant to our students, the EMs allow schools to tailor their curriculum to meet the needs of their students.

68.             I am glad that many schools have already come on board to offer interesting modules to their N(T) students.  [Currently, 39 schools have implemented a total of 85 EMs involving 2430 N(T) students.]

69.             Feedback from schools has been positive.  Students say that they find greater engagement and enjoyment in learning with the more practical and hands-on approaches in the EMs.  They also develop deeper understanding of the concepts they learn and are able to learn more independently.  Finally, the EMs are a practical way to whet the students� appetite in various courses at ITE and other post-secondary institutions, and gain an insight into related industries.

70.             Let us take a look at how one school, Chai Chee Secondary, has taken advantage of EMs to widen the range of learning opportunities its students are exposed to:

(Start of video clip)

Mdm Lim Moi Yin, Teacher & Career Guidance Counsellor: �When we heard we could offer the Elective Modules for NT students, we contacted ITE personnel for discussion immediately.

We felt that a more practice oriented course would be useful to NT students as it would expose them to a variety of learning opportunities, to stretch students� potential, to make lessons more meaningful for them by allowing them to have more hands on activities and at the same time to discover and identify their skills and abilities.

Through this programme, students can see the purposefulness and practicality of skills learnt now and be able to link them to their future ITE courses.  We intend to run this programme for coming years, looking into areas like tourism and enterprise.�

Muhammad Khairul Ezzad bin Annis: �The different teaching methods in the course like group work and discussion have given me the opportunity to develop my social & communication skills.  I have learnt new skills which I can apply in my daily life, like connecting a plug and understanding the dangers of electricity.�

(End of vide clip)

71.             Many more schools have indicated their desire to introduce EMs for their students.  We will support their efforts to do so.

Greater Flexibility in the Normal (academic) Course

Extending Elective Modules to N(A) Students

72.             Previously, we had restricted the EMs to the N(T) curriculum.  Principals have since asked that we consider opening up the EMs to N(A) students as well.  Many of our N(A) students do learn better with a more practical and hands-on approach.

73.             We will therefore open the EMs up to N(A) students from 2006.  Schools can introduce EMs of varying depth and difficulty, to suitably challenge and engage their students.  Students should therefore be exposed to a wide variety of courses in our polytechnics and ITE.

Allowing Selected N(A) Students to Bypass �N� Levels

74.             Starting from next year, secondary 3 N(A) students will also be allowed to offer 2 subjects from an expanded range of �O� level subjects at Sec 4, together with students in the Express course.  We will build on this flexibility.

75.             During focus group discussions with Principals about how we can do more to maximise the potential of this group of students, one of the issues that kept coming up was the possibility of allowing some of them to skip the �N� level examinations in Sec 4 altogether so that they can get on track earlier for their Sec 5 �O� level curriculum.

76.             Currently, about 70% to 80% of the 10,000 N(A) students in each cohort do well enough at the �N� level examinations to proceed to Secondary 5 for the �O� levels.  Not all do well at the �O� levels.  But about 40% of N(A) students obtain at least five �O� level passes.

77.             It would be educationally meaningful for some of these N(A) students, whom schools are able to identify as being likely to progress to Secondary 5 and obtain at least five �O� level passes, to skip the �N� Levels.  The time freed up from preparing and sitting for the �N� level examinations can then be used to provide a more seamless transition between the �N� and �O� level curriculum, and pace their learning better over 5 years.  Schools can also use the time to engage students in enrichment activities and broader learning experiences.

78.             We will give schools the flexibility to select students at the end of Sec 2 or Sec 3, based on their school-based performance, who will be well served by skipping the �N� levels enroute to Sec 5.  Each school has a different profile of N(A) students so MOE will give them the flexibility to select this group of students.

79.             Schools that are ready can select students from 2006.  The first batch of selected students will therefore bypass the �N� level examinations in 2007.

80.             The �N� level examinations will however continue to be an important benchmark examination for the majority of N(A) students, who will benefit from preparing for it.  It will also provide them greater flexibility of choice in terms of progression.


Study Feasibility of Niche Programmes in Schools that Link Up with Polytechnics

81.             Our secondary school curriculum is broad-based, and educationally sound for the majority of students.  Every student should continue to take a core content-based curriculum that includes maths, science, the languages and the humanities.  However, we should explore if we can offer variations besides the core curriculum, that caters to the interests and aspirations of students who are keen to progress on a more applied and practice-oriented path of education.  Some of these students will flow naturally into the polytechnics, while others will put their applied knowledge to good use in university.

82.             We need to accept that students have different learning styles, and different motivations in learning.  Some will flourish in an academic or logic-driven environment with rigorous pen-and-paper type of assessments.  Others will learn better in a more open-ended project-based environment that allows them to create things, and not always strictly by the book.  Yet others will learn best by doing a combination of the two.

83.             We will study two areas of possible changes to enhance the secondary school landscape.

More Applied and Practice-Oriented Subjects Through Poly Links

84.             One area is to study how selected schools can work with polytechnics to offer relevant applied and practice-oriented subjects and electives within the secondary school curriculum.

85.             In our visits to schools in Europe and Japan we see a tradition of students, including those who are very bright academically, doing things with their hands.  For example, when I visited the Tokyo Tech High School of Science and Technology this year  -  which gathers top students with a passion for maths and science from all over Japan  -  I found students in overalls, working in a laboratory that resembled a factory floor.  They spoke excitedly about their interests in what they were doing, and the objects they were creating with their hands.

86.             Students in the school are required to take an applied module in their upper grades, which included options like �electrical and electronic systems� and �mechanical systems�.  A teacher in the school told me that its strategy was to leverage on technology to make the learning of maths and science relevant.  It developed an early fascination with the way things work, and with the world of engineering.

87.             We will study if there is room for secondary school curriculum offerings that are of the applied and practice-oriented nature, besides what we offer in our N(T) course.  One subject that is already in our school system is Design and Technology (or D&T).  We will explore if a few more such options should be offered by selected schools, in collaboration with the polytechnics.

88.             Some schools and polytechnics are already taking a first step in doing this.  At Bishan Park Secondary School, for example, Secondary 3 students have been attending short electives in Nanyang Polytechnic on multi-media.  They go to the polytechnic once a week for five weeks; and work with the polytechnic lecturers to develop a multi-media learning package on a subject such as geography.  The final product is then uploaded into the school�s intranet to be used by all students.

89.             The students gain because they learn multi-media in an authentic setting.  They also gain a better sense of where their interests lie, besides what they find in their regular curriculum.  We will explore the scope for more such collaboration between schools and polytechnics.

Direct Polytechnic Admission for Selected Students

90.             Further, we will study if selected schools could establish links with the polytechnics so that capable and interested students can be offered places at the polytechnics after their lower secondary years.  These students can gain admission to the polytechnics after completing secondary school without having to sit for the �O� level examinations.

91.             If feasible, this will free up time and space for these students to engage in broader learning experiences during their secondary school years, that will prepare them well for further education in the polytechnics, and possibly the universities.

92.             Mr Gan Kim Yong, who will be appointed Minister of State for Education from 1 Oct 2005, will chair a Review Committee comprising principals from schools and polytechnics, and MOE officials, to study the feasibility and details of this new pathway in education.  The Committee will hope to complete its work in 4 months.

Joint Polytechnic Special Admission Exercise (JPSAE)

93.             Finally, we will give the Polytechnics more flexibility in how they select students.  In the past two years, we have been giving our schools and universities greater flexibility in their admission of pupils, to allow a more diverse range of pupil achievements and talents to be recognised.

94.             This year, under the Direct School Admission  �  Secondary Exercise (DSA-Sec), 43 secondary schools will select some of their 2006 Sec 1 students earlier using criteria other than the PSLE results.  Similarly, we have also given our universities the leeway to admit up to 10% of their intake based on their own criteria.

95.             We will extend this flexibility to our polytechnics from 2006 under the new Joint Polytechnic Special Admission Exercise (or JPSAE).  Initially, the polytechnics will be able to admit up to 5% of their annual intake of students based on their special talents and aptitude, rather than purely on their GCE O-level results.

96.             The polytechnics will each set their own, independent criteria for the JPSAE.  Such criteria can include students who demonstrate a strong aptitude either through work attachments, sustained involvement in course-related areas, or outstanding performance in projects or competitions; as well as students with outstanding achievements in leadership, community service, entrepreneurship, sports, or artistic and creative areas.  The polytechnics would have the discretion to look at students� portfolios and to interview them, among other modes of assessment.  They will set their own criteria to ensure that only students who are able to cope with the rigours of a diploma education are admitted under the JPSAE.


Focusing on What We Cannot Measure

97.             I have spoken in today�s Workplan Seminar about the two key thrusts we have embarked on  -  providing greater support for our teachers and leaders in schools, and providing more flexibility and choice for all our learners.

98.             We will implement this by providing top down support for bottom up initiatives from schools.  It is how we will achieve quality improvements in education as we go forward.  Schools will know best what makes sense for their students, how to customise their curricula, and what choices and niches they can offer.

99.             But at the core of quality in education, are the things we cannot easily measure.  Teachers and school leaders will have to touch the hearts of their students, and engage their minds.  This is what we all know gives the real quality that shows up many years later, well after we have measured what we can in our schools.

100.        You know what I mean.  The real satisfaction in education comes not from producing that bumper crop of A1 students, but when students who have graduated come back years later to schools to show their appreciation to the teachers that have affected their lives beyond just the grades.

101.        And as a nation, we will only be able to say that we have succeeded in educating our young when we see a whole generation of students pursuing their dreams with passion, seized with a joy for life and a desire to shape a better society.

102.        I do not have all the answers that are needed in education.  Neither does MOE.  Our schools have to think for themselves, and work collectively so that we nurture young Singaporeans who will ride the changes that will come into their lives in a more globalised world, and together create a bright future for Singapore.

103.        Our school leaders must be brave and committed to do the right things for their schools and students.  You have my full support and MOE�s full support.  I am absolutely confident that you are up to this challenge in our next phase of education.





[1] Anderson Secondary, CHIJ (Toa Payoh), Katong Convent, Pierce Secondary, St Margaret�s Secondary, St Anthony�s Canossian Secondary, and Tanjong Katong Girls� School will be offering Drama.  Commonwealth Secondary, Tanjong Katong Girls� School and Westwood Secondary will be offering Economics.  And Boon Lay Secondary, Serangoon Secondary and Springfield Secondary will be offering Computer Studies.