In context

Do-it-yourself ministers gaining notice

So! I was quoted in an article in today’s Straits Times.

This is a snippet from the article, including my quote:

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat was a guest at the Pre-University Seminar last June but chose to sit unnoticed at the back of a hall for more than an hour, to listen to students’ presentations.

He said he prefers not to disrupt proceedings or affect the candour of discussions.

He also stressed that it is his belief in working together with educators at the front line and with the community that “shapes my interaction, rather than a reaction after the [General Election]”.

Mr Heng also does not believe in making unannounced visits to schools to try and catch educators out.

That is not helpful in generating trust between educators and those at the ministry’s headquarters, and trust is what matters in the long run, he said.

Project manager and parent of two, Mr Tan Gin Tat, 40, gave a thumbs up to Mr Heng’s school visits.

However, he added: “If Mr Heng is walking down the school corridors, I hope he doesn’t just talk to the top people but chats with teachers on the problems they are facing on imparting knowledge to kids.”

Teacher Laremy Lee, 28, however, wants more unannounced visits to be made. Schools and teachers sometimes “stage a show” for office-holders on planned visits, he said.

I realise that I may sound as though I want Heng Swee Keat to catch educators out, so I thought I’d share the actual quote I gave in its entirety:

Question: Heng Swee Keat has been making it a point to visit schools of all levels and strengths to find out more about what’s going on the ground and to gauge the prevalence of parents’ feedback. A few of these visits were unannounced. How do you feel about this move by Mr Heng? Are you in favour of it or do you feel it’s just “wayang”?

Answer: Unfortunately, I don’t have a bird’s eye view of things, so it’d be difficult for me to correlate the visits with efforts such as the recent Character and Citizenship Education initiative. If the visits have led to the understanding that parents are as responsible as teachers for instilling values in the youth of today, for example, then yes, I am in favour of more visits like these.

With specific regard to unannounced visits, I think it’s great. When announced visits are made, what happens is that schools and teachers will stage a show for the visiting office-holders. So office-holders end up going off with the impression that everything is fine and dandy, when in actual fact, there are many problems that have been swept under the carpet, only to resurface after the visiting office-holders leave. So there should be more unannounced visits.

The point I was trying to make was that there should be more unannounced visits so that office-holders get a good sense of the realities of the situation as opposed to an artificial view of what is going on.

About the author

Laremy Lee

A versatile educator, writer and editor, Laremy Lee (李庭辉) has the uncanny knack of being one of the few among his generation in Singapore who crafts compelling stories in different genres.

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