Tuesday, 29 September 2015

ITE rate of success on the uptrend

85% awarded full certificates last year; school pushing to do even better
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 28 Sep 2015

More students are completing their courses at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

Last year, 85 per cent graduated from the vocational institute with a full certificate within three years, up from 78 per cent a decade ago.

ITE chief executive Bruce Poh told The Straits Times that it hopes to push the success rate to 87 per cent this year.

In an interview with The Straits Times, he said the improvement is a result of several factors, beyond helping students in their studies.

"Many of the students who come to us have socio-emotional issues, whether from the family, or they might not have been performing well in school," he said, adding that some have self-esteem problems.

More students have been able to cross the financial hurdle, with the help of bursaries from the ITE, community development councils and citizens consultative committees or the Education Ministry.

Some 52 per cent of ITE students are on financial aid, up from 43 per cent from 2011 to 2013.

Last year, about 900 students benefited from a special one-off allowance meant to help them tide over short-term financial difficulties, up from 500 in 2011.

The ITE also started an initiative in 2010 to give students $150 each month for expenses such as meals and transport. More than 1,200 needy students receive these funds each year.

On the socio-emotional front, the institution has also hired more student-care officers who counsel students. It now has 14, from just four in 2006.

Since last year, the ITE has recruited 11 educational psychologists and learning support specialists to support students with special needs.

Students also meet their class advisers, who are like "form teachers", for an hour of bonding each week. Some lecturers make regular home visits to find out more about students' backgrounds.

Mr Kenny Tan, 47, a senior ITE lecturer in electronics, said that class advisers lend a listening ear to students, adding: "We spend time with them almost every day and talk to them about their difficulties and try to guide them to find solutions."

Mr Poh said students also get a boost of confidence when they can "showcase their talent and leadership" in co-curricular activities.

The number of such activities at ITE has grown from 110 in 2006 to more than 250 this year.

These "small successes" encourage them and "lead to bigger successes", he said.

Mr Poh also said students are more engaged when they learn in workplace settings, and adding more training facilities such as hospital wards since 2005 has helped.

"A junior college student can sit down and listen to lectures for two hours - you can't expect that from an ITE student," he said. "But if you do work on an actual machine... it's more engaging for them... so you must create the kind of environment to suit their learning styles."

Mr Tan, who has been with the ITE for 16 years, said that the public image of the vocational institute has improved in the past five years.

"This gives students more confidence, especially when they come to campus and see the physical environment and facilities," he said.

"They remember that society has not forgotten about them and has invested in them."

ITE also plans to do more to help its weakest students stay in school. From last year, it started offering an extended programme for students who struggle to complete their Nitec studies in two years.

The scheme, which first took in 180 students last year, gives them an extra year to focus on literacy and numeracy skills.

"For slower learners who are poor in English and mathematics, a three-year programme may be more helpful so their chances of success might be higher," said Mr Poh.

In recent years, ITE lecturers have begun working with a number of schools to help students with poor Primary School Leaving Examination results by providing skills training and certification in areas such as hospitality and mechanical servicing.

These schools are its three subsidiaries - Northlight School, Crest Secondary School and Spectra Secondary School - as well as Assumption Pathway School.

Said Mr Tan: "It's tough to get students to stay in school when they have many family and social problems, but it's very rewarding to see them persevere and grow."

Student stays in school, with help from teacher
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 28 Sep 2015

Barely two months after starting at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East last year, Mr Muhammad Firdaus Razali, 20, had trouble attending classes regularly.

Even though his school fees were covered by bursaries, the mechanical engineering (Nitec) student could not afford to pay for daily expenses, such as food and transport.

His father is a cleaner and his mother works as a part-time caterer.

The first time Mr Firdaus did not attend school was two days in February last year, when he could not afford to top up his ez-link card.

Then he missed classes again for longer two-week periods, from March to September last year.

But his absences did not go unnoticed. His class adviser and course lecturer Khalid Kassim, 54, visited his home and met his family.

Since last year, he has also given Mr Firdaus close to $900 out of his own pocket, to help him with food and transport costs.

What an uplifting story! We hope ITE College East's Firdaus (reported on, in this article) will continue to deepen his...
Posted by Institute of Technical Education, Singapore on Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mr Khalid, who has been at ITE for more than 30 years, also persuaded him to stay in school.

Said Mr Firdaus: "I really wanted to give up and quit school in July last year but I'm very thankful Mr Khalid pushed me and helped me so much, so I wanted to prove to him I could do it.

"I also like my course because I like to fix things like motorbike engines and pipes in the house."

Mr Firdaus, who has two older siblings and a younger brother, is on the Community Development Council and Citizens' Consultative Committee-ITE bursary, and also received $900 this year from ITE under its Special Student Assistance Scheme. The scheme helps students like Mr Firdaus tide over short-term difficulties, so that they do not miss school.

But this year has been another trying one. He found out in March that his mother had been diagnosed with Stage 1 lung cancer. This was followed by the deaths of his mother's three siblings, also from cancer.

But Mr Firdaus is determined to work even harder to pursue his dream of getting into a polytechnic. "I hope I can do Higher Nitec next year," he said.

"If I have some pocket money, I'll try to go to polytechnic after that, and get a diploma so that I can help my family."

Said Mr Khalid: "It's a waste if he can't finish his studies because of a lack of finances. He's a good student and he wants to learn."

REACH partnered ITE College Central yesterday (6 Oct) for a Youth Forum with MOS (MOM) Teo Ser Luck and Parl Sec (MCCY) ...
Posted by REACHSingapore on Wednesday, October 7, 2015

ITE students learning skills that match industry's needs: Teo Ser Luck
This is also evident in the rising employment rate for graduates in recent years, says Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck at a dialogue session supported by Government feedback portal REACH.
By Chan Luo Er, Channel NewsAsia, 6 Oct 2015

Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students are learning skills close to what the industry requires, and this is evident in the rising employment rate for graduates in recent years, said Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck on Tuesday (Oct 6) at a dialogue session supported by Government feedback portal REACH.

About 250 students from ITE College Central, College East, and College West attended the forum.

Questions were raised on how their courses and internships would be relevant to the future needs of the industry. Students were also concerned about competition from foreign talent and how they can upgrade their skills when they start working.

Said Mr Teo: "We need to develop several platforms that are diverse for Singaporeans. Of course, it is based on their aspirations and we try to do as much as we can.

“But we have to make sure that the skills that they acquire are going to be relevant in the future. That is exactly why the industry and the schools and the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) must work closely together. The ministry should facilitate and support that to come up with policies to enable that process to happen."

Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth and REACH Vice-Chairman, said: "I am very heartened to hear these teenagers having such thoughtful questions. It means they do think about it and they are serious in what they want to do.

“So, we hope that through this dialogue, we are able to give them some assurance that Government policies are in place in the Singapore workforce to ensure they acquire the right skills and that the demand would be there. At the same time, there would be a fair employment framework to ensure they get considered for the jobs they are suited for."

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