Values at the core…So what are the values we want in our students?

At yesterday’s MOE Workplan seminar, Minister of Education, Mr Heng Swee Keat in his opening address said that “For this Work Plan Seminar, I want to focus on two key emphases for our next stage of development. We want to make our education system even more student-centric, and sharpen our focus in holistic education – centred on values and character development. We could call this Student-Centric, Values-Driven education. Another way of putting it, value in our learners and learning values. ” (Source: Ministry of Education http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/speeches/2011/09/22/work-plan-seminar-2011.php)

In the 3rd key fundamental, he quoted from an article by an assistant professor in the department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania “Learning is hard. True, learning should be fun, exhilarating and gratifying – but it is also often daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging.” Learning takes effort and rewards determination and perseverance.”

I will like to share some of my observations based on classroom teaching and also from the lives of my ex-students who also incidentally became my friends.

Value 1: See the Big Picture

Once a parent came by very early in the morning to NYGH to complain that her girl had very little sleep the previous night. She was working on an ICT assignment which I gave her the day before. It was on designing a picture using Adobe Photoshop skills. In class, she did great work and I would have given 9 out of 10 for the assignment. Each assignment is 10 marks. However, she wanted to perfect it and strived for the 10/10. So she stayed on until the wee hours of the morning at home to work on improving it.

I explained to the parent that the assignment is only 10 marks. Each week, the assignment for ICT is such that they will have the time to finish within the 1 hour lesson. In addition, she has many many other assignments that she can work on to make the overall progress grade. After listening to the explanation and context, her mum was very appreciative. She told me that she thought that was the only assignment and she did not realise that it was only a mere 10 marks.

Good and excellent students are by nature very perfectionistic. That is why they achieve high level of excellence in whatever they do. However, the need to strike a balance, to learn when to let go and to put the value of the achievement in context – that requires discipline, discernment and great guidance by the care-givers – eg parents and teachers. To walk away and say that is enough, I have done all I can and I need to get on with my other assignments, is to learn to see the big picture. That is not easy and is a habit that takes time to cultivate.

Value 2 : Humility: A willingness to fail and a deep sense of appreciation

One of my ex-students, Teck Hiong, from SJI is now working with IDA. As far as I know, he has started the following businesses, some even while in the university:

– investing in beauty spas and asking us ex-teachers and friends to sign up (which did not take off)

– starting Progeniq, a high performance computing company, where he spent 4 years doing biz development and is a shareholder (possibly of being acquired before end of year)

He is doing well with his various investments in houses. However, during a breakfast meeting with him and his wife at Alexandra Village recently, he also mentioned that he is still chasing after $20K that was lost due to a poor decision on renovation contractors for his house.

He mentioned that he is not as well qualified academically as those of his colleagues at IDA yet it was his boss that asked him to join in. He is valued for his diversity in thinking and his ability to connect with people.

At his wedding last year, I noticed that he arranged his guests by the year he gets to know them. So the three of us, his ex-teachers from SJI were all seated in the same table. He particularly remembered his Chinese teacher, Ms Lai and paid a great tribute to her for helping him in Chinese 🙂 The SJI I was teaching then have seen many many students kissing the ground when they get C6 for their Chinese paper. I remember one boy, Alfred who was in my form class. He dropped to his knees, clasped his hands together and in an extremely thankful manner, breathed his thanks to God! The last I heard, Alfred is a successful lawyer. All this in great contrast to my experience in NYGH where one of the girls cried when she did not get A1 for Chinese.

Value 3: Social conscience 

Cindy, a student councillor that I knew from NYGH is an excellent example of someone who has a deep sense of respect for the teachers and adults. She comes across as unassuming, approachable and has a keen sense to connect with her peers and elders. She is not the first person I will associate with being eloquent, having a stage presence yet she was chosen because of her ability to connect with all sorts of people. She has the gift to connect with young and old. She has a deep sense of social responsibility and has started a social enterprise called, EcoTravel Services. In fact, she was the one who inspired me to develop this course, “Ecotourism the Yong Tau Foo Way” for students who are in the MOE Gifted Education Branch, Talent Development Institute last year. The course is about team dynamics and also principles of ecotourism. Cindy and myself do not meet very often, yet she takes the time to come by for the book launch I did for team dynamics. Her parents have taught her well, she did not come empty handed. She handed me a nice pen set.

Value 4: Sense of deep appreciation

In all these cases I mentioned, the people that I come across have a deep sense of appreciation. People loved people who show appreciation. It breeds a positiveness that breathes life into our somewhat hectic and stressful lifestyle. A pause to show appreciation and care for your fellow human beings, whether young or old is a core value that every student should strive for:)

These are but some of the cases of students who have left a deep impact with me, one way or another. Teachers learn as much from students as they do from us. It is one reason why to this day, education and moulding the young, remain my passion 🙂

Useful links:

WorkPlan Seminar by Minster of Education

Gifted Education Branch, MOE 

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