23 July 2010 - Speech by Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and The Arts, Official Opening of Beacon Primary School
Speech by Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and The Arts, at the Official Opening of Beacon Primary School, 23 July 2010, 6pm
Ms Lim Boon Cheng Principal, Beacon Primary
Ms Cheng Woei Fen Chairperson, School Advisory Committee
RADM(NS) Ronnie Tay CEO, IDA
Teachers and Pupils
1. It gives me great pleasure to join you this evening at the official opening of Beacon Primary School. This occasion is a significant milestone in our education landscape, as Beacon is the first new primary school under the FutureSchools@Singapore programme.
2. When it was first conceived, the Future Schools@Singapore programme intended to develop 15 Future Schools by 2015 that will serve as pathfinders for the wider Education and Learning Sector in Singapore. With the support of the IDA, these schools will spearhead the seamless and pervasive integration of infocomm with the curriculum and pedagogy for engaged and interactive learning. Their practices should eventually cascade into our national school system.
3. Beacon Primary School and its Principal, Mrs Lim Boon Cheng, were carefully selected for the pioneer phase of the Future Schools programme. Unlike the other four institutions selected then, which were established primary and secondary schools, Beacon Primary would have the exciting task and limitless possibilities of introducing this programme without being constrained by any pre-conceived mindsets and existing practices in an established school.
4. Beacon Primary, with its status as a Future School and the programmes it planned to offer, was a hit with parents from the very start. In Singapore, new primary schools have the challenging task of drawing students from a neighbourhood where parents are accustomed to the incumbent primary schools and have carefully scouted them out for many years. New primary schools usually take some years to gradually build up their reputations and their enrolment before all available places are taken up for their Primary One cohort.
5. Beacon Primary had a running start. All available places at Primary One were taken up from Year One. It has since build on that strong start, involved interested parents fully in its programmes and strengthened its partnerships with the private sector. Such collaborations are integral to the success of programmes such as FutureSchools@Singapore. They help ensure that our education system and programmes remain dynamic and forward looking. In this instance, Beacon Primary worked closely with the consortium led by Singapore Technologies (Electronics) to develop educational applications which meet the school's requirements, are tested and refined in the classroom environment and over time, may well have significant commercial potential.
6. Beacon World is one such application. An immersive and interactive 3D virtual environment, it is specially designed by the consortium for primary-level pupils. It seeks to provide a safe online space for pupils to learn as a community, express themselves creatively and actively explore new concepts and ideas. I am sure pupils in Beacon Primary will look forward to the exciting suite of learning tools in Beacon World by the end of 2011.
7. Beacon Primary places strong emphasis on laying a solid foundation for the holistic development of its pupils. Through the FutureSchools@Singapore programme, the school has studied research findings and ideas to plan and implement an enriched curriculum that enhances learning through ICT. I believe that with effective infocomm usage, our students can learn how to integrate knowledge from multiple sources, think critically and distil information, which will help them excel in today's competitive economy.
8. The progress that the pupils have made is evident in the way young Primary 3 Beacons very confidently put together a story using their Tablet PCs. They write their own stories, illustrate with drawings and some even provide musical ditties that animate the multimedia pieces. Based on what they have demonstrated, I am hopeful that in not too many years from now, a number of them could well be our future IT entrepreneurs. The early signs are promising.
9. In 2008, when Amirul Afif Quayyum was in Primary 1, he worked with his parents and Malay language teacher, Madam Wan Alfida, to blog about his passion for cooking. He won first prize in the Malay Language National Blogging Competition despite facing older competitors. I am told he continues to be an active blogger today. More recently in the Singapore Shell Youth Science Festival "Let's Explore!" Competition, Muhammad Alfaatih and Jayven Tan, both Primary 3 students, studied how the development of their respective neighbourhoods over the years has affected biodiversity. They recorded their findings and reflections complete with photographs and videos in their e-journals and won prizes for their efforts. Their story illustrates how technology can provide a platform and empower young learners to pursue their areas of interests and extend their learning.
10. I know that this school is not just about bringing IT and students together. I was very encouraged that they actually wanted to form a choir, and students took this new responsibility seriously. MOE wants to bring in more sports, music and the arts to enrich not only the curriculum, but also to develop the students. I know that in time to come, what we want to see, is not just students winning competitions that are IT-related, but there will be dance troupes, music ensembles as well as a growing choir that will do the school proud. All these performers, if they do well, it is not just because just they are technically proficient, not because they train hard and take it seriously. What they do, is an outward expression of their inner grace and beauty. It is the job of the school, principal and staff to help bring out the grace and beauty inherent in each child, and when they do that successfully, you can be sure that the school can be successful.
11. I often visit schools, and they have all sorts of data to show me. Results, how the children have been performing for PSLE and everything. Coming to a new Primary school like this, they have no results to show me. That is no bad thing. The early years of an institution as Beacon Primary, the most important task is actually to establish the ethos, be grounded in the right set of values, to have a compass pointing you in the right direction, because that would chart the path where all of us must progress together.
12. It is not only the pupils who have made their mark; Beacons' teachers have also made their mark. They documented their learning in a publication entitled "A School's Journey into the Future - Research by Practitioners for Practitioners." Launched earlier this year, the book describes some of the innovative practices that have been implemented for the pupils and the impact the practices have had on the pupils' learning. It also helps the school to fulfill its role as a pathfinder as it shares its key findings from implementing innovative programmes with other educators.
13. The teachers' efforts in delivering an innovative curriculum have been recognised. In the span of two years, three teachers from Beacon Primary have been awarded the Microsoft-MOE Professional Development Award for the school-wide programmes implemented. I applaud Mrs Ying Yin Kuan, Madam June Ng, and Miss Serene Lee for their fine performance and never-ending quest to make learning more effective, meaningful and enjoyable for their pupils.
14. Ultimately, no amount of technology can ever replace the role of the teacher and the quality of care and teaching she tenders in the development of a child and the inculcation of values. I commend the Principal and staff of Beacon Primary for your unstinting and whole-hearted efforts in this endeavour. Teachers and students cross paths but for a few short years. But we all know that the impact and influence of outstanding teachers extend well beyond that brief interlude. For such teachers help shape habits and mould characters that form the foundation and building blocks for the men and women that we will be for the rest of our lives.
15. Finally, let me extend my congratulations to the Principal, staff, and pupils of Beacon Primary as well as all the school's partners on this joyous occasion. You can look forward to the next stage of the school's journey with gusto as you nurture a future-ready generation, ready to face challenges with confidence and resilience.
16. I wish all of you an enjoyable evening ahead. Thank you.