Photo of Ng Chee Meng from CNA

Speaking at a principal appointment ceremony at Shangri-La Hotel today (Dec 29), newly-appointed Education Minister Ng Chee Meng gave a pompous speech on innovation and entrepreneurship to his audience of educators.

The former Chief of Defence Force said that an advanced economy like Singapore needs more entrepreneurs and he is hoping schools will be able to teach innovation and resilience to students. However, Minister Ng Chee Meng did not give specifics on which particular aspect of Singapore’s education system he is working to change in order to promote the values he mentioned.

Singapore’s education system punishes students for failing exams by streaming them at a young age of 12. As a result of the merciless grading system, families which are better-off hire private tutors to supplement their children’s academia results. Students of elite schools are encouraged to take the A levels through the Integrated Programmes (IP) and attend universities, while the government is trying to push students of neighbourhood schools to make do with polytechnic diplomas and ITE certificates.

Below is the excerpt of Minister Ng Chee Meng’s speech:

“Singapore needs to transform from a value-adding paradigm to a value-creating one. This means we do not just educate our students to be good at solving problems. This is something our students excel in and must continue to do well at. But it is insufficient.

Students must develop the instincts and ability to be “value-creators”, able to join disparate dots to form a larger picture and invent new, cutting-edge innovations that will change the game. We need more innovators, inventors, path-blazers, people who can push the envelope, who can create value for society.

…We need to help them (students) have the courage, like Olivia, to try, fail, try again, fail again, try again. In true innovation tradition, there probably are many possible strategies to adopt to nurture these desired qualities in our students. But what is clear is that we, collectively, will need to work on the approaches and strategies.

Can we create a similar culture and learning environment in our schools?  A safe environment, with diversity in viewpoints? Are students encouraged to explore, give options – right or wrong, it doesn’t matter – and not feel self-conscious? Do we feel safe to fail?”