Home About Us Cover Story Selected Articles
Cover Story 专题报道 > Just Because A Child Did Not Start Well, It Does Not Mean That He Cannot End Well
起点不好不表示终点不能好 — 专访教育部课程规划与发展司司长林艳卿

Just Because A Child Did Not Start Well, It Does Not Mean That He Cannot End Well
— An Exclusive Interview with Mrs Chua Yen Ching, Director for Curriculum Planning and Development, MOE
By Poon Sing Wah
Photos courtesy of NorthLight School
Published: EduNation, Issue 6, November-December 2013

Just because a child did not start well, it does not mean that he cannot end well,” Mrs Chua Yen Ching, Director for Curriculum Planning and Development at the Ministry of Education (MOE), expressed and emphasised this belief in an email interview with the bilingual, bi-monthly educational magazine EduNation.

“Students have uneven strengths. Though they may not have done well academically they do have talents in other areas like sports and the arts. Every student has opportunities to experience a range of programmes and the teachers will help students to identify their interests and strengths. Every student is valued for who he is and the teachers will help him to redefine success and see failure differently. When he experiences failure, he can either give up or learn from his mistakes and persevere. If he goes for the latter, he will experience a breakthrough and not a breakdown,” she said.

Mrs Chua was NorthLight School’s (NLS) first principal. The School was established in 2007 and was the first school established in Singapore to specifically take in students who have failed their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Mrs Chua, together with her team of teachers, as well as staff from MOE and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), developed a curriculum that provides students with a strong foundation in character education, firm academic fundamentals, and a taste of vocational education. The nurturing and inviting learning environment has helped students regain their self-confidence and made them determined to make a difference to their families and society.

Design of the Curriculum Must Give Students a Sense of Achievement

Mrs Chua pointed out that all students learn differently. If teachers are able to match their teaching methods with the learning styles of their students and help them see meaning in their learning, the students’ interest in their studies will be sustained. Teachers from NLS and Assumption Pathway School (APS) know their students well and they have developed a number of innovative pedagogies that resonate with their students who are mainly kinaesthetic and visual learners. Besides the cognitive aspect, the schools also conduct programmes that enhance the students’ social emotional learning.

During its conceptualisation stage in 2006, Mrs Chua and her team referred to a variety of literature and research as they developed NLS’ curriculum framework. Once finalised, it had three main features: character education, basic academic skills formation, and vocational training. The first of these strengthens the students’ self-awareness and social emotional competencies. This is because they need to know how to manage their emotions, make informed decisions, and be responsible for the decisions they make. There is also a set of core values which provides the students with a moral compass. The second feature instils the literacy, numeracy and information-communication skills that are necessary to successfully engage with the vocational modules. The third, vocational education, will make the students employable, and prepare them for work after graduation.

“It was the first time such a curriculum had been developed for this group of students and the teachers were very aware that they needed to be dynamic and prepared to fine-tune and make adjustments along the way. Many opportunities were provided to allow the students to experience small successes that boosted their confidence level for further learning,” said Mrs Chua.

Parents and Community as Supportive Partners

NLS has become a beacon of hope for the many parents of children whose futures once seemed bleak. In 2008, a number of these parents wrote their stories down, as a way of commending the teachers for their patience in helping to turn their children’s lives around. These have subsequently been consolidated into a book titled Heartwork@NorthLight, and presented to the School as a gift on Teachers’ Day. Mrs Chua said that it was a touching moment for all the staff.

When other stakeholders saw how the children had turned around, they could identify with NLS’ mission and many became partners of the School.

One of these was a baker who used to deliver his first batch of buns every day to the students who did not have any money for breakfast. Another was a doctor who provided free medical consultations for NLS students, and then there was a group of 40 cab drivers who volunteered to take the children who were unwell home for free. Many companies also came forward to offer attachments so that the students could apply what they had learnt in school to a real workplace. One student from NLS’ first batch completed his NITEC course with ITE, went on to do National Service and then found a job at the company, Home-Fix — the same company where he had done his industrial attachment when he was in his final year in NLS. He told Mrs Chua that to many Home-Fix might be just a DIY hardware company but to him Home-Fix is like a family.

Assets to Society

Most of the students from the first two cohorts from APS and NLS have completed their ITE Skills Certificate, and subsequently their NITEC course with ITE. A few of them are currently pursuing their diplomas in the polytechnics, something which they might not have expected when they failed their PSLE. The rest have found employment and are contributing to their families and society.

“It is heartening to see how education has been a social leveller for many of these students and that many of them are seeing their aspirations become a reality,” Mrs Chua said.

Translated by: Kwan Cheurn Hsi

The MOE Talks to EduNation
Creating More Education Pathways and Choices for Students
There are currently about 5,000 students who qualify for the Normal (Technical) (N(T)) course every year. Crest Secondary School, founded in 2013, and Spectra Secondary School, to start in 2014, will take in about 400 of these between them, while the rest of the students will continue to go to mainstream schools.

An MOE spokesperson said that specialised schools provide a whole-school approach to meeting the learning needs of N(T) students that goes beyond what the N(T) course in a mainstream school can offer. This includes a customised curriculum and teaching pedagogy, the provision of additional socio-emotional learning support through whole-school activities, and the recruitment of teachers with the right skills, attributes, and commitment to nurturing these students. Having a critical mass of N(T) students also means that such schools are able to offer customised facilities for them.

As with other specialised schools in Singapore like the Singapore Sports School, the School Of The Arts, the School of Science and Technology and the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, the specialised schools for N(T) students will enjoy greater independence, allowing them the flexibility of customising their teaching approach to suit the learning needs of their student profile. Their class size will average out at around 20 students. While N(T) students in mainstream schools graduate primarily with GCE N(T)-level qualifications, graduates from the specialised schools will have a combination of GCE N(T)-level qualifications and ITE Skills Certificates, and can progress to further education, employment or apprenticeship at trade-based institutes.

The establishment of Crest Secondary and Spectra Secondary with a practice-based learning environment is clearly another option for N(T) students, to help them develop themselves to their fullest potential.

The MOE spokesperson pointed out that the N(T) course in mainstream schools will continue to cater to the bulk of Singapore’s N(T) students. The specialised schools will therefore complement the mainstream system, and provide N(T) students with an additional choice of secondary school education. She added that the MOE will continue to glean useful lessons from a whole-school approach for N(T) students and consider if there is further need and demand for such schools in the future. Best practices will also be shared with the mainstream schools offering N(T) courses.

The MOE has been diversifying its education pathways to provide N(T) students with an enhanced learning experience since 2008 when Bedok Town Secondary School, Shuqun Secondary School and Si Ling Secondary School piloted a new variant of the N(T) programme — N(T) Mark II. After this pilot was up and running, lecturers from the Institutes of Technical Education were then seconded to these schools to adjust and enhance their curriculum further, by providing them with more practice-based, learner-centred activities.

Translated by: Kwan Cheurn Hsi

封面故事 > 起点不好不表示终点不能好
— 专访教育部课程规划与发展司司长林艳卿
刊载:《新学》, 第6期,2013年11月-12月








北烁学校让很多彻夜难眠,以为孩子前途暗淡的家长突然发现曙光,看到孩子变好。为了感激这有魔术般力量的学校,他们在2008年,写出一篇篇感激的文章,褒扬北烁教师的耐心帮助,撰述自己的孩子进入北烁后,有了怎样的转变。家长们把文章汇集成为一本名为《北烁学校的心灵工程 Heartwork@NorthLight》的书,作为教师节的献礼。林艳卿说全校教师拿到这份礼物时,都备受感动。




北烁学校和圣升明径学校的学生,在校期间取得工艺教育学院技能证书(ITE Skills Certification),毕业后到工艺教育学院修读国家工艺教育局证书(NITEC)课程,最近更有学生升读理工学院的文凭课程。这些成就是他们在小六会考不及格时想都不敢想的。没有继续读书的学生则找到工作,能够有钱养家,每个人都成为社会有用的人。







至于目前在士林中学、树群中学和务乐中学实行的第二代普通(工艺)学校计划(Normal Technical Mark II),是和工艺教育学院讲师合作修订现有的普通(工艺)课程,成为以实践学习为基础的补助课程。自2008年起,这三校都借调了工艺教育学院的讲师来协助教学和开发课程。

Chua Yen Ching / 林艳卿
Mrs Chua Yen Ching is an exemplary educator with more than 30 years of teaching and educational administration experience. She started her teaching career in 1981 at Dunman Secondary School where she taught Chemistry and Biology before being appointed Head of the Science Department in 1986.

She became Vice Principal of Tanjong Katong Girls’ School in 1991, and Principal of Zhonghua Secondary School in 1995. Three years later, she was made Deputy Director of the Curriculum Planning and Development Division (Sciences), at the Ministry of Education. After five years in this role, she was appointed Principal of Shuqun Secondary School and in 2006, she became involved in the conceptualisation NorthLight School, before taking the helm as its founding principal.

She was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze) and Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 2000 and 2007 respectively in recognition of her services to education.


» Past Issues
» Last issue
» Contents

Contact us   |   Advertise with us   |   Privacy Policy
Published by WS Education is a subsidiary of

Copyright © 2021 EduNation Co. All rights reserved.