Left: Lau Hui Ning is a Curriculum Planning Officer (Chinese Language) at the Mother Tongue Language Branch in Ministry of Education HQ. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Language and Literature from National Taiwan University and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education Chinese Literature from Nanyang Technological University.
Right: Thomson Ang teaches Mathematics at Dunman Secondary School. The MOE Teaching Scholar has a Bachelor of Science (Education), (Sec) Honours (Distinction) Mathematics Physics from Nanyang Technological University.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) stands behind every teacher in Singapore. Under its guidance, teachers are supported, energised, and fulfilled – while they empower students to face challenges with strength, and celebrate the achievements they earn.
Many are involved in the macro-level work MOE undertakes to support its teachers. One example being Lau Hui Ning, a Curriculum Planning Officer (Chinese Language) in the Mother Tongue Language Branch. She draws on her extensive teaching experience to design and implement syllabuses and instructional programmes to make learning Chinese a joy rather than a challenge.
Conversely, Thomson Ang is just starting out as a Mathematics Teacher in Dunman Secondary School. His modest first step is backed by a tour-de-force of knowledge and experience from the Teaching Scholar’s Programme, an exclusive four-year scholar’s programme aimed at preparing tomorrow’s leaders of education.
Teaching as a Springboard to More
The First Step is Always a Teacher
Like most in MOE HQ, Hui Ning did not start her career in education there. MOE believes that extensive ground-level experiences form the basis of nation-wide curriculum decisions.
Being an Education Merit Scholar, Hui Ning went through a rigorous study programme at National Taiwan University. It was a thoroughly transformative experience – having the luxury to delve deeply into her discipline, the opportunity to listen and learn from celebrated Taiwanese professors, and the time to immerse herself in the culture and language and make it her own.
“In those few years, some part of my character was changed through that persistent exposure to and usage of the language,” she remembered.
Upon her return, Hui Ning conducted her classes by drawing on her overseas exposure as a foothold to identify the “DNA” of the Chinese language and culture. More than teaching Chinese as just a language, Hui Ning nurtured in her students an appreciation of the ancient civilisation and its traditions.
With the experiences she had on the ground, Hui Ning moved on to join the Mother Tongue Language Branch as a Curriculum Planning Officer for the Chinese Language.
From Teacher to Teaching Curriculum
It was a foundational change for Hui Ning as she got used to her new position. “At HQ, your piece of work is always tied to others’ work, which all come together as a centralised effort. With that level of influence comes greater responsibility, higher stakes and fewer second chances,” she noted.
One of Hui Ning’s current projects is the designing of the 2021 new Secondary Mother Tongue Language (MTL) curriculum; where she is involved in the crafting and testing of instructional materials as well as facilitating Networked Learning Communities with Master Teachers review changes.
Alongside these duties, she is a member of the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning secretariat, working with community partners like the National Library Board to implement programmes such as reading festivals, recitation or essay competitions, drama performances and even songwriting.
Where Responsibility and Possibility progress Hand-in-Hand
Hui Ning has always kept sight of her main goal - curating meaningful and immersive MTL learning experiences for teachers and students alike.
“There is a huge responsibility in designing the MTL curriculum in the current evolving language landscape – you have the potential to influence an entire generation of MTL learners and how they learn their MTL is inextricably linked to our bilingual policy,” she adds.
With three career tracks and many opportunities available for teachers to progress within the Ministry, education officers like Hui Ning get to experience and hone their expertise in curriculum planning-related matters.
“While our own education pathways shape our beliefs about teaching and learning, always remember that education and learning can look very different for different individuals. It is a matter of matching and fit. Every child can learn and wants to learn, and it is our job to help them do so,” Hui Ning summarises.
Teaching as a Source of Inspiration
An Inspirer to Others
Thomson had a lightbulb moment during his National Service – he wanted to become a teacher.
After greater understanding of the MOE Teaching Scholarship and Teaching Scholars’ Programme (TSP), Thomson was strongly drawn to it. As part of the TSP, students can expect to develop their research skills, gain international experiences through the global immersions as well as gain insights and cultivate competencies beyond classroom learning.
Regarding his International Practicum, Thomson shared, “It has to be the most memorable experience, which cannot be obtained elsewhere. You get to teach overseas, learn how overseas teachers teach and bring back the teaching pedagogy to be modified to suit our students’ needs.”
Upon graduation, Thomson was given the opportunity to be involved in projects beyond teaching.
These included the Competition and Enrichment 2IC, where he leads a pilot project, Stretch Programme, designed to target the higher-ability Secondary Two Express students. He is currently also a Professional Learning Team leader, working on a lesson package for Secondary Three students using Computational Thinking.
Recalling his most significant career achievement to date, Thomson shared with us that he created a buddy system that paired high-achievers with students experiencing difficulties. The system yielded great gains, as homework-submission rates rose and friendships blossomed amongst classmates.
For his BUILD, Thomson was selected for an internship with SPH Publishing! A strange choice for a teacher, but very helpful in the long run!
Already coming a long way from worksheets and blackboards, teaching is still poised to develop further. Thomson looks forward to not just learning in the classroom, but also guiding the next generation of Teaching Scholars as well.
“You must be mentally prepared to take on many roles! A teacher doesn’t just teach; a teacher is also a friend, a counsellor, a parent and most importantly, a role model,” Thomson states.