Prof Tan Oon Seng
Professor of Education and Centre Director, Centre for Research in Child Development
1. You have been instrumental in bridging the research community with the education community. Could you briefly explain how they are affiliated?
Excellent education is about helping students thrive and develop their fullest potential, while equipping them with the skills and dispositions to adapt to changing environments. Bridging the research and education community facilitates this goal of education, as they bring different perspectives and experiences that are both essential in building an effective education system.
The education community is at the forefront, engaging in applied, direct work with students and experiencing first-hand what their current needs and challenges are. Meanwhile, the research community comes in by understanding the current landscape of education, therefore identifying gaps and opportunities to look into the future and improve education for the young. Both communities facilitate one another.
2. Do you believe that technology-enhanced learning is the way to the future?
Technology is so pervasive in our and young people’s daily lives and we should develop ways to harness it in a health and effective manner for learning. One important way is to pursue technology-enhanced learning from a learner-centred perspective that is, to have a clear understanding of how students are involved and interacting with technology at present and possibly in the future. They should also be equipped with digital health and literacy skills to protect potential risks.
3. As a teacher to teachers, what advice would you have for educators to keep their motivation for teaching?
To teachers, always remember that a teacher’s main role is to build the character of students and to help them with overcoming the learning curve. The more we equip them to be highly independent in learning, the better. Most importantly, remember to affirm students in appropriate ways as you will never know when the smallest affirmation can make a difference in their lives by giving them the confidence and hope in stretching themselves.
4. Could you share with us some of your most unforgettable experiences as a teacher? Are there any students you are particularly proud of?
I started teaching in the 1980s, so it has been about 40 years. I’ve had ex-students approach me to thank me for being their teacher, which is a very unforgettable and humbling experience for me. Many are very successful, and some are also in teacher education.
A few years ago, my son sent me a picture of a card I wrote for one of my Secondary 4 students in the past, as they became acquainted at work. He had found out that we are connected, and sent him a picture of that card. I had long forgotten about the card, and it touched me that I made a difference in his learning and development, that he kept a simple card I wrote for decades.
5. In your opinion, what are some of the hallmarks of a quality education?
Quality education should go beyond academic and results-driven success, and emphasise strong character and mindsets towards life and learning. This includes moral principles and character traits such as grit, resilience, and the propensity to take on challenges without being afraid to fail.
Click here to read about other Nanyang Alumni Award recipients.
This article first appeared in issue 2 of U, the NTU alumni magazine.