Published on 06 Apr 2022

The NIE NTU, Singapore and the Lien Foundation launch initiatives to raise capabilities of educators and nurture a new generation of leaders in education

Key highlights:

1. A new Professorship in Education to attract top-notch experts in inclusive education to Singapore to nurture local talent, develop research, strengthen practices and contribute to local developments of the sector.

2. The design and implementation of two Leadership Development Programmes for a network and learning community of leaders: Inclusion Matters and Principal Matters Plus, the latter being the first significant collaboration between the NIE and the NIEC.

3. Develop teaching resources tailored to the local context, learning journeys and an in-depth practicum experience for educators through the Lien Foundation’s partner project sites.

With the aim of building a robust education system of the future, the National Institute of Education (NIE), an autonomous institute of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore and philanthropic organisation, the Lien Foundation announced the launch of Project Genie (Greatly Enhanced Networks in Education), a broad capability enhancement initiative with programmes targeted at different levels from student teachers to sector leaders. This is to encourage interdisciplinary learning and advance educator abilities to cater for the diverse needs and the inclusion of students with special needs. 

Project Genie will utilise a three-pronged approach to build up a network of leaders, enhance the quality of educator training with learning journeys and the development of relevant local teaching resources, and fostering sector excellence through collaboration. A common thread across these initiatives is the opportunities for exchanges among educators working in mainstream primary schools, Special Education (SPED), preschools and early intervention to bring about greater harmonisation across these sectors.

To achieve a future-ready education system, it is paramount that we enable our children access to opportunities through multiple pathways and lifelong learning. This partnership will contribute towards the national agenda and resources that the NIE requires to nurture a new generation of educators adept to catering for the diverse learning needs of all children in the future - where 21st century competencies (such as communication and collaboration skills, social awareness and critical thinking) are emphasised.

Project Genie is made possible through a $7.5 million gift by the Lien Foundation.

Establishing a Lien Ying Chow Visiting Professorship and a Lien Foundation Chair Professorship

The Visiting Professorship aims to attract top minds to the Institute’s that contributes to the vision of the Singapore’s education system for the future, starting with the development of educational programmes and research. A local Chair will give due recognition to the advances that faculty have made. It further encourages developments in the field and strengthens the Institute’s capacity to support the special needs sector.

The NIE will create opportunities for exciting collaborations between professors, enabled through the setup of an Impact Grant to support research activities or projects in this area. Various efforts including an annual symposium, consultation and engagement sessions, and public lectures will amplify best practices and create demand for higher standards in education. Please refer to Annex B for more information about the Lien Ying Chow Visiting Professorship and Lien Foundation Chair Professorship.

Professor Vivienne Riches, psychologist, educator, researcher and consultant at the Centre for Disability Studies, Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney, has been appointed the first Lien Ying Chow Visiting Professor. She has undertaken significant research and development work for and with people with disability in areas that includes vocational training and employment, transitioning from school to post school, classification and assessment of support needs, community living, social and interpersonal skills, well-being, mental and emotional health, behaviour of concern and forensic issues, and Active Support. More information about Professor Riches can be found in Annex C.

Leadership Development Programmes and Networked Learning Communities

Project Genie will foster an interdisciplinary community of leaders in special and inclusive education, and encourage opportunities for cross-sector collaborations through two leadership programmes:

1. Inclusion Matters is a six-month guided training for leaders working in the special needs sector and wider SPED and Early Intervention (EI) ecosystem in Singapore, including teachers, principals, psychologists, AED-LBS, allied health professionals and other specialists. It will take on an experiential approach and feature different modalities of blended learning with input from experts in the industry.

2. The NIE will also collaborate with the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) to conduct Principal Matters + (PM+), an executive programme targeting cluster-level preschool leaders and above who manage sizable operations, in anchor operators, partner operators or private sector organisations. This will be the first collaboration involving the NIEC faculty to design and co-teach. PM+ builds on a successful three-year run of the Principal Matters leadership programme for preschool leaders which ran from 2016 to 2019.

The two programmes will see two cohorts of 25 participants each, benefitting a total of 100 education leaders who will be empowered to catalyse the development of whole-school support structures for children with diverse needs. Please refer to Annex D and E for more information about the two programmes.

Enhancing the calibre of educator training and resources

1. Local teaching materials and case studies

To enhance teacher training and deepen the learning experience of educators, teaching resources will be developed to extend real-world experiences to trainee teachers. It will focus on interdisciplinary collaboration between professionals and share best practices including those from the Lien Foundation’s partner project sites such as Canossian Circle of Care, Kindle Garden and Making Every Preschool Inclusive (MEPI), as well as case studies demonstrating strategies employed for the inclusion of students with special needs. Pertinent areas such as dyslexia, autism and behavioural challenges will also be touched upon. Previously limited to international resources, these new materials will expose educators to relevant practices with local context and nuances. This material will also eventually be used across the different programmes at the NIE to strengthen the theory-practice nexus.

2. Practicum and learning journeys

There will be learning journeys to the Foundation’s partner project sites, as well as a one-term practicum offered annually – the intensive Professional Inquiry into Inclusive Education will allow 15 post-graduate or outstanding undergraduate teacher trainees over three years to gain an in-depth experience of working and learning alongside various professionals across the Foundation’s project sites that have demonstrated innovative ways of working. There is an increasing need for stronger interdisciplinary collaboration and such practicum will enable educators to build up experience working with other disciplines. 

3. Book Prizes

The Lien Foundation Book Prizes will be established to motivate and boost the profile of outstanding Allied and SPED educators. Four book prizes of $1,000 each for allied educators and special education teachers graduating from the Diploma in Special Education (DISE) programme, and two Book Prizes of $2,000 each for top graduates from the Master of Education (Special Education) programme will be awarded.

In general, Project Genie will provide opportunities for enhancing the capabilities of the institution in advancing special education, in addition to providing support to leaders and promoting research in the field.

“We greatly welcome this collaboration with the Lien Foundation. The Project Genie, with its multi-pronged approach, will strengthen our collective efforts and vision for inclusive education and an inclusive society. Its goals support the NIE’s mission in inspiring learning and align well to the MOE’s focus on nurturing confident and resilient learners. The project provides rigorous and holistic learning experiences for educators to become leaders of learning as well as developers of culturally relevant teaching and learning resources. Educators participating in this project will learn from one another as well as local and overseas experts through an expanded network of local professionals and visiting professors at the NIE,” shared NIE Director Professor Christine Goh.

Mr Lee Poh Wah, Lien Foundation CEO, said: “Schools are dynamic learning communities and part of a larger ecosystem supporting children and their families. Leaders in education should exemplify that. Our partnership with the NIE aims to strengthen the education workforce and their connections to build better partnerships. A key plank in the design of Project Genie is the creation of opportunities to improve the porosity of professional exchanges between the mainstream, special education, preschool and early intervention sectors. This will help broaden their repertoire of skills, forge better ways of working with other professionals and enable stronger inclusive practices in schools to cater to the diverse learning needs of all students.”