Published on 06 Dec 2023

Nurturing Students For The Future

Mr Wong Siew Hoong is a recipient of this year’s Nanyang Alumni Achievement Award. As the Director-General of Education (DGE) from 2015 to 2022, he played a pivotal role in Singapore’s educational transformation.

NIEWS invites him to reflect on his 38-year career, and share insights into Singapore’s evolving education landscape.

1. Mr Wong, congratulations on your Nanyang Alumni Achievement Award! Why is this achievement special to you, and how has it inspired you?

I am a teacher by training, by profession and by passion. As a teacher, my professional foundation can be traced back to the training I received at the National Institute of Education. Therefore, the NIE represents a big part of my professional upbringing. I owe a debt of gratitude to the NIE where I learnt to be the best teacher that I could be.

2. 38 years in education is more than a lifetime for some of our readers! What sparked your interest in education? Who was your biggest role model?

When I was in secondary school and in pre-university, I was given the privilege to work with my younger schoolmates in various CCAs. I found that very meaningful and fulfilling. Therefore, when the opportunity to sign up as a teacher came, I took it on, believing that it would be a meaningful and noble profession where I could work with young people and make a difference to them.

3. Describe the proudest moment in your education career.

There is no single proud moment, but many cherished experiences. On numerous occasions, I have had the chance to meet my former students in Singapore and overseas, be it along the street, at hawker centres, or in schools. Being able to witness their growth and contributions to society has been immensely rewarding to me.

4. What was your most memorable initiative as DGE at the Ministry of Education (MOE), and why?

I had the privilege to work on many issues related to teaching and learning, including areas like curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, education technology and special education. I consider every area to be equally important, and the opportunity to contribute to these issues has been professionally exciting and meaningful.

5. You introduced Student Learning Space (SLS) in 2018, as well as a policy to equip all secondary school students with personal learning devices by 2028. Why were these initiatives significant?

Advancement in technology is one of the driving forces that will continue to change the world. In education, it is imperative that we use education technology to advance teaching and learning. We must do that to also ensure that we help our students become digitally literate and skilled.

6. How did these efforts prepare MOE for the COVID-19 pandemic? What do you remember most about having to helm MOE’s response to COVID-19?

It was indeed fortuitous that we had started working on developing a national learning system so that when COVID-19 hit us in 2020, we had a ready mechanism that helped all our schools move into home-based learning effectively.

The pandemic taught us so many things, especially resilience, the need to be adaptable and to look after one another. We can be extremely proud that teachers and students rose to the challenge and carried on with teaching and learning, displaying fortitude, adaptability and care for each other during the difficult period.

7. You’ve actively promoted pedagogies improvements and innovations through the Singapore Teaching Practice model. Can you elaborate on this, in light of having to nurture future-ready teachers?

It is my deep belief that pedagogical expertise represents the core of our professional work. It is both an art as well as a science. Singapore teachers have performed well over the past decades, responding to the changes required of us. It is therefore important for us to codify our pedagogical practices so that individually and as a fraternity, we can continue to improve and do our best for our students.

8. What keeps you busy these days? Tell us something interesting about yourself!

It has been my privilege to continue serving in the Education Service as an Advisor, working on various boards and projects with MOE. Now, I have more time to swim, something I used to do a lot of, when I was in pre-university. You may be surprised to know that I am a qualified lifesaver and had actually worked as a part-time lifeguard for a while when I was young.

9. How do you envision the future of education in Singapore? What do you think will be most vital to preparing teachers for an ever-changing world?

Education is about the future, about moulding the destiny of our nation. As our students will inherit a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, they will need to have strong literacy, numeracy, and foundational skills like socio-emotional competencies, in addition to future-oriented skills like the 21st Century Competencies. Establishing these competencies had been the core of my work over the last 20 years in MOE HQ. As teachers, we will need to evolve our professional responsibilities and practices, to transform Singapore’s education system into one that can provide these skills to all our students.

10. Any words of advice for NIE students and alumni who are reading this interview?

Teaching is a very special calling. It is a noble profession where we can make a big difference to every student we work with.

Read the original article here

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