Principals need to redefine leadership position in society: Heng Swee Keat
- POSTED: 27 Dec 2013 16:47
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School principals have much in common with other leaders of organisations, said Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat.
SINGAPORE: School principals have much in common with other leaders of organisations.
This comparison was made by Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat at a ceremony on Friday to appoint and appreciate principals.
In his speech, Mr Heng noted that leaders, including principals, can never do their work alone.
He said nothing much can be achieved unless leaders inspire and develop a team to work towards a common goal.
He added that their work as leaders in the wider education system and public sector is also intimately linked to striving with fellow educators and Singaporeans to build a better education system, society and future for all.
This, Mr Heng said, was part of a redefinition of the leadership role of principals.
He said times have changed from when a principal was considered "the only literate member of a village". Parents in those days deferred to the principal on how to educate their children.
But parents are now more educated, which translates to higher expectations on their children, as well as on teachers and school leaders.
To drive home the message, Mr Heng quoted a farewell letter written by Mrs Lysia Kee, a retiring principal.
"'The Principal is a leader who is more than a CEO. She is a leader whose first duty is to care and love and this duty embraces the willingness to take every opportunity to nurture, to guide, to lead.' Take every opportunity, as Mrs Kee says," said Mr Heng.
Sixty-one principals were officially appointed and redeployed during the ceremony, while 23 other retiring education officers were acknowledged for their years of service.
Mr Heng also called on them to "push the frontiers of learning" and cited three areas where this could be done -- in harnessing children's imagination to help them learn better, paying attention to social-emotional learning and helping to expand their horizons.
Underpinning all of this should be their concern for their students.
As leaders in learning, Mr Heng believes school principals should always ask themselves a simple question.
"We must always ask: 'How do I help the students in my school learn better?',” he said.
As a retiring principal after 27 years of service, Mrs Chin Shin Wea, from Kranji Primary School, is familiar with this approach.
She believes that as long as school leaders stay true to the core principles of teaching, the rest comes naturally, even in evolving times.
"If you have love for children, and you are very keen and sincere to put pupils first, there won't be any challenges. Change is always constant, so whatever comes onto the scene, very importantly is how we optimise the opportunity, how we make use of them to benefit our pupils," said Mrs Chin.
"The Education Ministry is encouraging schools to push the frontiers of learning. This includes the areas of developing a child's confidence, as well as expanding their horizons. But first, new principals like Mr Benny Lee, must understand the needs of their students, as well as those of their parents."
"We need to come up with rules of engagement with the parents. We need to engage them, we need to be able to have a common language with them, and also be able to engage them meaningfully in what the school programmes are like," Jurongville Secondary School principal Benny Lee.
Mr Heng echoed this sentiment, urging educators to partner with parents, so that children can learn productively and develop holistically.