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MOE pays tribute to pioneer teachers

At the first Pioneer Tribute Tea Session on Friday (Sep 5), Education Minister Heng Swee Keat lauded pioneer teachers for helping to lay a "solid foundation for Singapore's education system". 

SINGAPORE: More than 350 pioneer teachers attended the first Pioneer Tribute Tea Session organised by the Education Ministry on Friday (Sep 5). The event is part of a year-long celebration leading up to Singapore's 50th year of independence next year, and tea sessions will continue to be held every Friday in September and October.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat paid tribute to these pioneer teachers, who laid a "solid foundation for Singapore's education system", he said. Mr Heng also urged them to share their stories with the younger generation, as these are a precious part of Singapore's heritage.

"Every generation must build on the good work of the previous generation, and every generation must be pioneers. There are lots of new things to look at today, and I hope they will continue to break new ground. And what you have done will provide a lot of inspiration for all our teachers going forward and for all our students," Mr Heng said.

Among the attendees on Friday was retired PE teacher Ismail Mohamed Taha, who comes from a family of teachers. At one point in 1999, there were 17 family members who were in the teaching profession, a record for them. Many of them have since retired, but seven are still in the service. Mr Ismail, now 68, his five sisters and their parents were all teachers at one point.

"My parents were very instrumental to my decision to become a teacher - my Dad used to tell us that it was a noble profession," said Mr Ismail, who retired in 2005 after 42 years in service. "As a family, there is a lot of sharing, especially over dinner. Sometimes you have got to tell one another to stop bringing the problems in school to the dinner table. But anyway, it's fun. At the end of the day, we see a student grow in terms of both character and intellect. Even today, when we walk along the streets or in the shopping malls, the students will come and say, 'Sir, do you remember me?'"

Another pioneer teacher, Mr John Chia, is now 75 years old, and still teaches and coaches football at St Stephen's School. He called these tea sessions for teachers a "fantastic idea". "There are so many of our teachers - they are not recognised. This kind of party is extremely good for pioneer teachers, to thank them for what they have done for education and hope that we have more aspiring students to take up teaching," he said. "I believe that so far, there is no other profession where you can feel the satisfaction of helping students prepare for the future and to be somebody."