Mr Wee Heng Tin was Director General of Education from 1996 to 2004
“In all my 39 years and 9 months in the Education service, I’ve been in only one profession, yet actually performed many types of jobs - my MOE postings have included teaching, heading secondary schools & junior colleges as a principal, supervising schools and principals, taking charge of administration and personnel matters, overseeing libraries and text books and even PE (Physical Education) lessons.”
Unknowingly, he would later become a teacher and mentor to successive DGEs Ms Ho Peng and Ms Seah Jiak Choo, inspiring them with his unique teaching concepts and far-sighted ideas, humility and compassion. Those under his watch commented that he led with a heart that understood their needs and concerns. “I’m a less formal person - I like to walk about when I talk, not being in front of a desk. I prefer the soft approach in communicating as it’s non-threatening and gets the message across without fear.”
Mr Wee thoroughly enjoyed his well-rounded exposure to different facets of his work at MOE. He put his hand to the plough diligently, resulting in him seeing the big picture and realizing the enormity of the task of education. If anything, it kept him firmly grounded, the reality sinking in quickly that it takes many ‘heads’ to run a school. Even more so an entire nation’s education system!
Described as a man ahead of his time and a true visionary, Mr Wee understood the relevance of principals and schools assessing and asserting themselves while taking ownership of what they were doing. “When you own something, you would really want to take care of it, you will cherish it. It makes you automatically responsible and builds excellent leadership skills.” He was therefore fully in support of the ‘Thinking Schools, Learning Nation’ (TSLN) vision - where teachers teach and students learn, but also where both students and teachers are given periods of quiet time just to think. “When they are given room to come up with new ideas, they become thinking individuals. If everybody within a school thinks, the school then becomes a thinking school!” As Director of Education at the time, he played his part, changing the mindset of school principals and teachers so that students were not merely expected to regurgitate what they learn, but were given the room to express their individual ideas and concepts.
As an extension of thinking individuals, the concept of lifelong learning extends beyond one’s years of formal education, however young or old, where citizens then form a learning nation. He quotes a famous Confucius saying “You live to a very old age, You learn to a very old age”
“We learn new things everyday as long as we are alive. So we train our students to face an uncertain future with a well-rounded education. It is my belief that given Singapore’s constraints, its future depends on the future of education - how well we teach our students and how well the education system performs. Without proper leadership in education, Singapore will not have a bright future.”
Mr Wee Heng Tin officiates the official opening of the Academy executive office at 51 Grange Road, Teachers Network.