Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the MOE ExCEL Parent Support Group Conference 2014, at Suntec Convention Centre on 12 April 2014
Ms Sim Ann
Minister of State
Mr Lim Biow Chuan
Chairperson of GPC for Education
Ladies and gentlemen
1. I am delighted to be here this morning This is a very special conference. It is by parents, with parents, for parents. Congratulations on this inaugural Parent Support Group (PSG) conference.
2. In 1998, when the National Advisory Council COMPASS (COMmunity and PArents in Support of Schools) was set up, there were 60 PSGs or Parent-Teacher Associations in our schools. This was about 17% of our schools then. I was in a PSG helping the school to improve road safety in the neighbourhood. It was wonderful working with other parents to do something for the school.
3. In 2011, MOE set up the Partnerships in Education Office (PEO) to support our schools in parent and community engagement efforts. Today, I am proud to say that majority of our schools, more than 95%, have a formalised PSG/PTA set up. I am told that every one of our 369 schools, as well as MOE Kindergartens and SPED school community, are represented here today - welcome to the PSG family!
4. This first ever PSG Conference is a significant marker in the history of PSGs. We are having our ExCEL Fest which celebrates innovations in our schools every year. PSG Conference is part of ExCEL Fest because the Conference - indeed PSGs themselves - are a breakthrough. Most importantly, by parents, with parents, for parents. Twenty PSG parents from across different schools - primary, secondary, JCs - partnered MOE to organise this. It shows a great ownership by PSG volunteers. Our volunteers play primary roles - as speakers, panellists, facilitators, ushers, and emcees.
5. The lovely PSG logo, unveiled today, was also designed by a parent volunteer, Ms Siow Pit Har, with input from other PSG members. I am happy to see that it shows three smiling faces, representing parents and teachers working in partnership for the good of our children. This logo is particularly meaningful in that the child is at the centre of this partnership. I applaud all the parents who have contributed to this PSG conference.
Every Parent a Supportive Partner
6. MOE shares the same hopes and dreams of every parent. Like every parent and every teacher, I want every child to succeed. All of us at MOE and in our schools are dedicated to bringing out the best in every child. MOE wants to bring out the best in every child, in every domain of learning, in every school, at every stage of the learning journey, whatever the starting point so that we can create a better future together.
7. Today, I want to emphasise the word “together” - We look forward to doing this with the active partnership of parents who care about the future of our children. Parents are important because you are your child’s first and most important teacher in life.
8. I would like to share four ways for every parent to be a supportive partner to bring out the best in every child.
Support your child to reach his or her best.
Support your child’s teachers to bring out the best in your child.
Support your child’s school to bring out the best in all its children.
Support one another to bring out the best in your children.
9. This is not a prescription. Parents are already doing this and we very much appreciate it.
Support Your Child
10. First, support your child to be his or her best by enriching the learning experiences. This is not just about guiding children in homework. Parents can play a larger role to help their child enjoy the process of learning. If they enjoy the process of learning, they will be more motivated to learn. One important way that parents can do that is to relate what they learn in school to their lives and inspire the children to see that learning is not confined to the school, but that it can take place anytime and anywhere, in everyday life experiences too. I invite you to share your expertise to enrich the programmes in schools and provide moral support, assurance, and social-emotional guidance especially in times of ‘struggle’ and achievement.
11. I would like to share the story of Madam Lathifa Bte Othman in East Coast Primary School. Madam Lathifa enjoys baking and often shares her home-baked goodies with others. Since 2010, she started working with the school to design lessons and recipes for the Modular CCA Programme ‘I Can Cook’, for P3 to P6 students. Madam Lathifa advises the school on the recipes to be introduced and the appropriate ingredients to be used, according to the level of the students. She also shares her expertise with other PSG members and encourages them to help out in the weekly programme. With their guidance through the process of baking, students learn the importance of patience, accuracy and teamwork in a fun and interesting way.
12. At Woodgrove Secondary, the PSG provides moral support to students during examination periods with “Pancake Day” - making and serving pancakes to the students as encouragement. Students love it. It lets them know that their parents know what they are going through, and that they are supported and cared for. They then feel encouraged to do their best. The impact for the students is much greater when it is the parents.
Support Your Child’s Teachers
13. The second point is to support your child’s teachers by working with them to bring out the best in your child. Trust that our teachers also want to bring out the best in your child. Share what you know with the teachers about what helps your child to learn. Our teachers play multiple roles and work hard. They cannot and should not be surrogate parents, and their mission is to help every child achieve his best. So from time to time, do encourage our teachers too.
14. I would like to thank the many parents who write to MOE daily to tell us how much you appreciate your child’s teachers and principals. So work with your teachers to support your child. Indeed, many schools’ PSGs are involved in Teachers’ Day Concerts to show their appreciation to the teachers.
15. Even in our post-secondary institutions, parents have encouraged teachers in other ways. For example, in Pioneer Junior College, the parents gave every teacher and staff a special gift for Teachers’ Day last year to thank them.
Support Your Child’s School
16. Third, support your child’s school to bring out the best in your children. You can offer your time and support in programmes and initiatives organised by the school, help the school to reach out to other parents who are not in the PSG, to communicate important messages or to encourage them to participate in school-based activities.
17. In Naval Base Primary School, the PSG has come forward to act as ambassadors for the school, promoting the school to parents whose children are about to enter primary school. They share their experiences, and highlight features of the school that have benefitted their children. Other parents find the parent ambassadors’ views useful as they give the parent’s perspective on the school.
Support One Another
18. Finally, support one another in bringing out the best in your children. Parenting is a learning journey for parents too. It is not easy, but the rewards are worth it. No parent need go through it alone, or just with his/her spouse. PSG leaders and members can help point other parents towards resources and communities that can help them be supportive partners. Bringing out the best in our children is a cause that all parents can rally around. When parents support one another, and when we do so in a total environment together with schools, teachers, and the community, it can lead to great things.
19. At Eunos Primary School, the PSG calls themselves SPICES@Eunos (Supportive Parents in Community Engagement at Eunos Primary). They distribute a Parent-to-Parent newsletter to all parents every term. Articles are fully contributed and edited by the parents, and include updates on school events and even parenting tips. Parents shared an article with tips on helping their children embark on a healthier lifestyle - such as encouraging children to eat more vegetables by dipping them in chocolate pudding or yoghurt. They even had a coffee talk with a PSG member who is a doctor, Dr Lili Dogarel.
MOE Supports Every Parent to be a Supportive Partner
20. There are many more stories like the ones I have shared. There are as many possibilities as there are loving parents who also want to bring out the best in the child. So in the same way, in MOE, I want to support you to be loving, engaged, supportive parents, to bring out the best in your children.
21. To encourage schools to continue to use the PSG Fund to enable our supportive parents’ great work, we introduced PSG Fund in 2012 to further boost PSG efforts in parent engagement. This year, we extended the PSG Fund from a seed funding to an annual top up of up to $2,500. I hope you find this funding useful. We will be happy to support a wider range of efforts - whether organising activities to promote parent-child bonding, funding parent outreach programmes, or organising workshops to enhance PSGs.
22. Today, we celebrate the good work of 15 schools that got the PARTNERS (Merit) Award last year. My heartiest congratulations to the winners of the PARTNERS Award. It is in recognition of the strong collaboration with parents and community to support and enhance our children’s learning experiences. In fact, good collaboration is not limited to these 15 schools. Over 100 schools have received PARTNERS outstanding or merit awards since the start of the awards in 2002. Two of the award recipients, Rivervale Primary and Pasir Ris Secondary, together with their Parent Support Groups, will be sharing their experiences on school-home partnerships at their exhibition booth today.
23. Some of you may have also seen the TV Series, “Small Steps, Big Future” Recently. We are very proud to showcase the good work of our parents. MOE worked with Mediacorp on a 4-part TV special to show how our schools provide a happy learning environment and opportunities for every child to be the best he can be, with the support of parents.
24. Schools like MacPherson Primary have Values-in-Action projects that build children’s character and values. In the ‘Put myself in their shoes’ project, upper primary students put themselves in the shoes of the canteen vendors and cleaners by taking turns to clean the canteen and toilets. Some parents may feel that the children are treated as menial labour, but the children are actually learning important values, such as empathy and responsibility, which will see them through their lives.
25. I personally think that it makes for a better society when children grow up respecting everyone, whatever their job, whether they are doing blue collar or white collar work. We must show respect and appreciation for every job and every profession. It takes everyone to build a good Singapore. I hope we have many stories to tell in the coming years. I hope to encourage everyone to work closely with schools to support our children’s learning, and help them to grow into confident and responsible individuals.
26. We also set up the Parents in Education website in 2012. It has learning resources and useful tips for every stage of a child’s education journey. Parents can learn more about cyberwellness and learn useful tips on setting parental controls on various electronic devices, including internet browsers, iPads, and even video game consoles such as Playstation.
27. We have also soft-launched a mobile app of the Parents in Education Website in December 2012. The Parents in Education mobile application has been enhanced to better support parents. We consulted PSG leaders last year. Some enhancements are a result of their suggestions. Parents can now input their children’s level of study, and receive updates customised to their profile. There is a new poll feature which provides improved interactivity. There is also a new calendar function gives a quick overview of school holidays and various education-related events such as MOE’s seminars on Preparing Your Child for Primary School. I hope this will serve parents as a good way to interact with each other.
28. Let us hear the thoughts of our students on how parent and teacher can mould and bring out the best in a child. The video shows students from different schools reciting a poem.
29. As the students say, “For behind the parent stood (stands) the school; And behind the teacher stood (stands) the home.” We need this to bring out the best in every child. Behind or beside each other, MOE, schools and parents stand on the same side. We share the same dreams and hope - to bring out the best in every child. Let’s work together to support Every Student to be an Engaged Learner. Let’s give them the knowledge, skills and values that will help them succeed in life and be good people.
30. It is my great pleasure to declare the inaugural PSG Conference open. I hope that this conference will be fruitful for you and help us all to bring out the best in every child, together.
31. Thank you