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Prioritise character development to prepare students for the future: Ng Chee Meng

In a speech, Acting Education Minister Ng Chee Meng stressed the importance of moving away from being obsessed with grades.

SINGAPORE: Schools need to prioritise character development in order to prepare students for the future, instead of a narrow focus on good academic grades.

Acting Education Minister Ng Chee Meng said this on Tuesday (May 31) in an address to close to 2,000 teachers taking part in the two-day 8th Teacher's Conference held at the Singapore Expo.

First held in 2000, the biennial conference is organised by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Academy of Singapore Teachers (AST) to encourage interaction and sharing of best practices by local and international educators.

In his speech, Mr Ng also stressed the importance of moving away from being obsessed with grades and instead having more of a focus on inculcating values to last a lifetime.

"In other words, we must find the balance between what can be measured (grades) and what can only be observed like values and character," he said.

One educator Channel NewsAsia spoke with at the conference agreed that there must be a shift in mindset of teachers, but added that parents must change their perspective when it comes to focusing on grades as well. 

Ms Audrey Lim, a school staff developer at Canossa Convent said: "I think at the onset of the relationship with the parents, instead of just telling them about issues that their child facing, we can actually discuss what are some goals that we want to work towards. Parents these days are also very informed. And they also know that in order to survive in this world, it's not just about grades, but about your communication skills, about the values that will see you through, about the resilience in their child."

To ensure teachers stay ahead of changing needs of the education system, regular dialogue is being encouraged among teachers within and between schools under programmes like the Professional Learning Community (PLC).

Mr Chan Yew Wooi, Director for Professional Development at the Academy for Singapore Teachers (MOE) said: "PLC was launched a decade ago, and it was really an initiative to set up timetabled time for teachers to come together in their different subject groups to discuss things that really matter to the teachers."

The Teacher's Conference features keynote speakers and close to 200 presentations from participants from Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and the US. It will run till Jun 1.