Saturday 31 December 2011

First specialised Normal (Technical) school to open in 2013

Specialised schools to be in west, north
Jurong East, Woodlands to house institutions for Normal (Tech) students
By Lin Zhaowei, The Straits Times, 31 Dec 2011

THE first of two specialised secondary schools for Normal (Technical) students, to be opened in 2013, will be located in Jurong East.

The second, which will take in students in 2014, will be located in Woodlands, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat announced yesterday.

The schools will each take in around 200 students who get posted to the Normal (Technical) stream each year. The stream is for academically weaker students who learn best by doing.

The four-year curriculum at the two schools will be more practice-oriented and industry-focused, to prepare students for further studies at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) or other skills training organisations.

They will work with ITE and industry partners to develop their curriculum and programmes, and provide opportunities for attachments and internships.

Mr Heng was speaking yesterday at the annual appointment and appreciation ceremony for principals at the Shangri- La Hotel.

He spoke about the new schools when he highlighted how his ministry was creating new pathways to cater to students of different learning needs.

Another example, he said, is the new 'through-train' programme for Normal (Academic) students which will be implemented from 2013.

The programme allows top performers to enter polytechnics directly instead of going on to Secondary 5.

Said Mr Heng: 'The underlying philosophy is to make many pathways, bridges and ladders available to our students, at different points in time, with no dead ends.'

The setting up of the specialised Normal (Technical) schools was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech last year.

The schools will also emphasise physical education and aesthetics, such as music and art and craft.

Attention will be given to building the confidence of students through various means, such as sports and other team-based activities.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said the locations of the two schools were chosen because of site availability and their proximity to large residential centres.

Mr Heng said the ministry will work with parents to help students understand their needs, so they can make informed choices about which path to take.

'There is no one better pathway. It depends on the child's interests, learning style and probable career aspirations,' he said.

Turning his attention to school leadership, Mr Heng highlighted the ministry's efforts in nurturing leaders.

'Our education system today is strong and effective because of the dedication of our school leaders who are able to adapt to the changing demands of the time,' he said.

This year, changes have been made to the Leaders in Education Programme, which trains principals, to ensure its relevance, he noted.

Time was set aside for participants to engage in strategic dialogues with MOE senior management, and a closed-door dialogue with a high-level senior defence ministry official was organised.

Next year, MOE will organise a forum with national leaders to provide school leaders with a macro perspective of national challenges and opportunities.

Of the 52 principals who officially received their appointment letters yesterday, 26 are new to the position.

Mr Frederick Yeo, 40, who is helming the upcoming specialised Normal (Technical) school in Jurong East, said he wants to bring a personal touch to the school.

He said his experience with N(T) students at his previous school, Bowen Secondary, showed that they appreciate simple gestures like being asked how their day was.

He added: 'Some N(T) students do not have much self-confidence, and we intend to have programmes that build up that sense of self-confidence.'

The principal for the N(T) school in Woodlands has not been appointed.

More details on the two schools will be announced in the first quarter of next year, said an MOE spokesman.

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