Aspiring to groom our future generations for the nation, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is committed to providing every child in Singapore with a holistic education. This not only includes the teaching of skills and knowledge, but also encompasses the cultivation of character, mind and resilience to handle life’s challenges in a world characterised by rapid technological revolutions.
Two scholars, Sheena Kang and Srinivasan Shyam, open about their experiences as educators who shape and mould our future generations. Sheena is currently an English Literature teacher at Tampines Secondary School, while Shyam is a Planning Officer at the Education Policy Branch under MOE HQ.
What motivated you to become an educator?
Sheena: In Junior College, I tutored secondary school students from at-risk backgrounds. I was greatly moved when one of my students thanked me for believing in her. I was further encouraged to consider a career in teaching. Thus, I decided to join the MOE Teaching Internship Programme (TIP) and the experience affirmed my growing conviction that teaching and mentoring young people would be my calling.
Shyam: I was inspired by my teachers who often went the extra mile to care for me and my peers, and support us in pursuing our interests. I wanted to be in a position to play the same role for others. I also spent a few months relief teaching in a secondary school, which affirmed my decision to join the education sector.
Sheena Kang Yingling
Education Merit Scholar
English Literature Teacher, Tampines Secondary School
What do you find meaningful about being an educator?
Sheena: Born into a computerised world, many young people live fragmented lives, frantically shuttling between their virtual selves and their real selves, with some being unable to distinguish between the two. More than ever before, we need to guide our students through the myriad of choices they are presented with. We do so not by giving them definitive answers, but by providing them a space to articulate their concerns and questions, and by giving them tools to negotiate life’s ambiguities.
Shyam: In my present role, I have had the privilege of working on several initiatives to encourage students (and families) to look beyond grades and develop themselves holistically. MOE now faces the challenge of preparing our children for an increasingly uncertain world. This requires Singaporeans to be adaptable and resilient, and to embrace life-long learning. We need to build these attributes in our children from a young age, a mission that is too important for us to leave to chance.
How has an overseas education helped you to overcome the challenges of the changing education system?
Sheena: My conversations with peers from different cultures helped me to develop empathy and open-mindedness as I learnt to consider the value of alternative points of view. The rich discussions nurtured my love for open and authentic conversations. This is reflected in how I place significant emphasis on class discussions aimed at presenting questions on real-world issues and eliciting the student voice. I strive to help my students grow in self-awareness and learn to offer the priceless gift of empathy to others.
Shyam: As an undergraduate, I had tutorial sessions where our professor used to teach two students at one time. I found this personalised educational experience extremely valuable, as we had ample chances to clarify our doubts and questions. As a teacher, I sought to replicate this experience in the classroom. While this was not always possible, I built in some time for small group consultations with my students. I believe this deepened their understanding and more importantly, it helped me to establish a strong rapport with them.
Overseas Merit Scholar (Teaching)
Planning Officer, Education Policy Branch
MOE HQ Planning Division
What are the professional development opportunities available for MOE scholars?
Sheena: Apart from school attachments, I also interned at the Curriculum Policy Office at MOE HQ in my second year as an undergraduate. This was an enriching experience as I got to work alongside experienced officers and hear the concerns of school leaders during our visits to schools. Working in HQ also honed my analytical thinking skills and cultivated in me a systems mind-set that proved to be extremely useful in my career.
Shyam: I had the privilege and opportunity to teach in a school in the UK, as well as one in Africa. I also did an internship in a non-profit organisation in the US, which was piloting initiatives in New York City schools. These experiences were invaluable, and MOE was in full support. There is scope for scholars to be funded for overseas stints in education.
Any words of advice for aspiring educators?
Sheena: One of my abiding beliefs as a teacher is to be curious and not furious. I believe that no student is intentionally defiant, and if they are, something might have caused them to react in this way over the years. As educators, our job is not to flare up when a student acts up. Instead, we should show care and concern and render the support needed for them to deal with the root of the problem.
Shyam: I strongly encourage students to explore their interests fully and think carefully before deciding on a scholarship. A scholarship comes with many privileges and with that, the responsibility to do our utmost to ensure a bright future for Singaporeans.