SINGAPORE: Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said it is important to maintain the trust that parents have in educators.
Mr Heng’s comments come amidst a year of alleged inappropriate behaviour involving educators and principals.
In the most recent case, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said that former River Valley High School principal Steven Koh had been redeployed to its headquarters, as he was assisting the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). Reports have linked him to a woman in the educational services industry.
Mr Heng said this as he joined students and parents on the first day of the new school year.
Mr Heng said many parents have expressed confidence in Singapore’s educators and in the coming weeks, he said his ministry will extensively consult educators on a Code of Conduct.
"It gives greater details and practical applications to the ethos of the teaching profession as well as creeds. So I think it is a good set of documents which will serve as a baseline document that would guide educators," said Mr Heng.
The Code is expected to be consolidated by this month.
It is a consolidation of regulations from the instruction manuals for civil servants, as well as MOE’s internal conduct guidelines.
About 40,000 children started Primary One in schools, including seven new schools, on Wednesday.
Most of the new schools are in Punggol and Sengkang. One of them is Palm View Primary School at Compassvale Bow.
At St Hilda’s Primary, parents received some tips from the minister on how they can help their children ease into formal schooling.
Mr Heng said parents need to understand that every child is unique.
He said: "I had one secondary school student who told me that once she got 80 marks in a school, and the mother said, ’hey but your cousin got 85’ in another school. And then when she got 85, her mother said,’ but your cousin got 90 now. How come you didn’t get 90?’.
"And she said, ’I felt very discouraged after that’. We want to encourage our children, but if you keep comparing them with others, it can become very discouraging. Every child is unique and has his own talents and strengths, so take time to understand them and help them develop as best as you can."
Thousands of Primary One students across Singapore have started their first day of school against the backdrop of a slew of changes to the education environment in 2012.
This includes abolishing the naming of top scorers in national examinations such as PSLE, as well as removing secondary school banding based on ’O’ level results.
Mr Heng hopes that with these changes, parents will begin to focus on their children’s holistic development.
During his visit, Mr Heng also highlighted that there will be another 14 school—based Student Care Centres (SCCs) set up by this month to provide after—school care and to supervise the students.
With these new centres, there are eighty schools which will have such centres in their schools.
They will serve different functions, depending on the students’ needs.
Mr Heng said: "There are many parents also where both parents are working, but we will give priority to those where the home support may be weaker, and this is part and parcel of our effort to help our students to level up.
"Some of the activities which help to promote the social and emotional development of students, and which reinforce the basic discipline of doing homework for instance, have proven to be quite effective, and I’ve spoken to quite a few principals who have told me having those centres makes quite a difference."
MOE will continue to expand the number of SCCs, depending on demand for such facilities.
Parents welcomed the ministry’s initiative to expand the number of SCCs.
"A lot of parents are working, contributing to the economy, so the student care is a very good thing, a very big relief for parents," said Mr Anthony Soo, a senior supply manager.
Homemaker Celeste Howe said having the centre located within the school takes a load off parents’ minds.
"If you’re going to have children making their way to student care centres that is out of the school compounds, they’ll have to cross roads, and that will be somewhat of a worry for parents," she said.
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